US House Speaker McCarthy to lead 20 Congress members to Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rep. Kevin McCarthy in Jerusalem, Aug. 12, 2019. Credit: Kevin McCarthy/Speaker of the House website.

(JNS) — U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel later this month and become the second-ever House speaker to address the full Knesset, his Israeli counterpart Amir Ohana announced on April 18.

Ohana described McCarthy as a “steadfast supporter and longstanding friend of Israel,” and noted that it would be the top Republican official’s first trip outside the U.S. since assuming his post in January.

“This is a clear expression of the strong and unbreakable bond between Israel and its closest ally, the United States of America,” added Ohana.

McCarthy said the U.S. relationship with the Jewish state remained “as important as ever,” adding that the visit would be special coming on the heels of Israel’s 75th Independence Day, which will be marked on April 26.

The American speaker will arrive in the Jewish state on April 30 at the head of a 20-member delegation of Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

McCarthy late last month expressed his backing for the Netanyahu government amid an ongoing national debate in Israel over its judicial reform initiative.

“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu is an Israeli patriot, statesman and most importantly, a great friend of the United States,” McCarthy wrote. “Free societies have vigorous and open debate. Israel is no exception.

“I support Netanyahu, and America’s support for Israel’s strong, vibrant democracy is unwavering,” he added.

McCarthy also was instrumental in ousting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her history of antisemitic remarks, a move that drew praise from pro-Israel groups.

Newt Gingrich is the only other House speaker to address the Knesset plenum, having done so in 1998.