US President, Joe Biden, has after a lengthy delay invited Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to the US for an official visit later this year.
The Washington White House and prime minister’s office in Jerusalem both announced Mr Biden’s invitation on Monday, coming more than six months after the Israeli leader was returned to power in national elections.
Mr Biden had held off extending the invitation out of concern about a judicial overhaul undertaken by Mr Netanyahu and his right-wing government as well as Israel’s expansion of settlements on the occupied West Bank.
Reuters reports that the US leader extended the invitation during a phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli President, Isaac Herzog.
The US House of Representatives and Senate have invited President Herzog, whose position as head of state is mostly ceremonial, to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, but some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have signaled that they might not attend the event.
A senior Biden administration official said Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu had agreed to meet “later this year in the United States”.
Whether the meeting would take place at the White House was unclear.
Mr Netanyahu returned to power in January, but, according to a recent Reuters report, President Biden had pointedly declined to issue an invitation until long after most Israeli prime ministers would have made the visit.
Amid escalating West Bank violence, the Israeli government’s actions authorizing settler outposts and inflammatory comments from a member of PM Netanyahu’s cabinet had drawn criticism from US officials, including Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin during a visit to Israel in March.