US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy visits to Israel as an opportunity to boost his party’s appeal to Israeli voters ahead of the 2024 US presidential elections. McCarthy, who is leading a 20-member bipartisan delegation of lawmakers, arrived in Israel on Sunday and became the second-ever holder of his post to address the full Knesset.
McCarthy’s visit coincided with the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence and was seen as a gesture of solidarity with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been locked in a bitter dispute with President Joe Biden over a controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary. The plan, which would give the government more control over the appointment and removal of judges, has sparked widespread protests and criticism from civil society groups, legal experts and the US administration.
Biden has publicly expressed his concern about the legal overhaul and its impact on Israel’s democracy and has not invited Netanyahu to the White House since he took office in January. McCarthy, on the other hand, has voiced his full support for Netanyahu and his government, which includes far-right and nationalist parties that have taken a hardline stance on issues such as settlements, annexation and Palestinian rights.
In his speech to the Knesset on Monday, McCarthy praised Netanyahu as a “patriot, statesman and most importantly, a great friend of the United States” and invited him to address the Congress instead of the White House. He also emphasized the strong and unbreakable bond between Israel and the US, and vowed to stand with Israel against its enemies, especially Iran.
McCarthy’s visit was widely seen as a partisan move to appeal to Israeli voters, especially those who hold dual citizenship and can vote in US elections. According to estimates, there are about 300,000 eligible Israeli-American voters in Israel, most of whom lean Republican and support Trump’s pro-Israel policies. McCarthy’s visit was also aimed at courting evangelical Christians in the US, who are a key constituency for the Republican Party and staunch supporters of Israel.
McCarthy’s visit has highlighted the growing rift between Netanyahu and Biden, as well as the increasing politicization of Israel as a wedge issue in US politics. While Israel has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington, some analysts have warned that McCarthy’s visit could further alienate Democrats and undermine the long-term interests of both countries.