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Biden Pledges ‘Ironclad’ Commitment to Israel During Herzog Visit

President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to supporting the U.S.–Israel alliance in a White House meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“My love for Israel is deep-rooted, long-lasting,” Mr. Biden said on July 18, seated beside Mr. Herzog. “And as I affirmed to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu yesterday, America’s commitment to Israel is firm. And it is ironclad.”

Mr. Herzog is in Washington in honor of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. He will meet also with Vice President Kamala Harris and address a joint assembly of Congress.

Following the one-on-one with Mr. Biden, Mr. Herzog, characterized the meeting in glowing terms.

“My dear friends, I had a wonderful meeting with President Biden. President Biden is a huge friend of the state of Israel,” Mr. Herzog told reporters.

“I am reminded of how he landed with Air Force One in Israel a year ago in July. As he was walking down Air Force One, he was waving to me and saying, I’m home. I’m back home. And indeed, President Biden reiterated his ironclad commitment and his friendship and love of the state of Israel and his support for the state of Israel.”

The remarks from both men may have been intended to counter criticism from both the political right and left over what would seem to have been an ordinary diplomatic visit. Instead, it provided an occasion for political opponents to question Mr. Biden’s attitude both toward a longtime U.S. ally and for members of his own party to speak out about alleged human rights abuses.

Epoch Times Photo
Israeli President Isaac Herzog (C) walks toward reporters to speak about his meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington on July 18, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Critics on the Right

Mr. Biden had been criticized for saying in March that he would not invite Mr. Netanyahu to the White House “in the near term” due to his attempts to overhaul the Israeli judicial system. The prime minister has since dropped some parts of the proposal.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) invited Mr. Herzog to address a joint assembly of Congress in honor of Israel’s anniversary. Mr. Biden later invited Mr. Herzog to the White House.

Critics have seen Mr. Biden’s unwillingness to invite Mr. Netanyahu to the White House as a snub to the Israeli prime minister, an interpretation shared by Mr. McCarthy.

“We invited Herzog in the last Congress to come, based upon the 75th anniversary. So the President of Israel’s coming has nothing to do with Bibi Netanyahu,” said Mr. McCarthy. “But I have said when I was in Israel speaking at the Knesset, if President Biden snubs Prime Minister Netanyahu, I will gladly invite Netanyahu to America.”

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu spoke by phone on July 17 in an apparent attempt to belay that reading of events. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on July 18 that the two leaders would meet at some point this year.

Critics on the Left

At the same time, several progressive members of Congress have criticized the Israeli president’s visit due to concerns about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“I don’t think Israel has gone far enough in protecting and uplifting Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) told The Epoch Times.

“The Israeli government is responsible for enforcing an apartheid state and rampantly abusing the rights of Palestinians,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) wrote on Twitter on July 13.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) referred to Israel as a “racist state” on July 15, a remark for which she later apologized.

Mr. Bowman, Ms. Bush, and Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have stated their plans to boycott Mr. Herzog’s speech.

Epoch Times Photo
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) at a press conference in SeaTac, Wash., on June 9, 2018. (Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Reporters pressed Ms. Jean-Pierre on July 18 about why the White House had not condemned Ms. Jayapal’s remark.

“The apology was the right thing to do. And we’ve been very clear when it comes to antisemitism, this administration and the entire Biden-Harris administration have been clear that when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hate, that’s antisemitism, and that is unacceptable,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

“You have the president, right now, meeting with the president of Israel, a very important meeting that they’re having…  And one of the things that the president’s going to make very clear is the special bond and our commitment to Israel, and it is unwavering. It is unshakeable, and the president finds that relationship, again, very deep. And it started when he first walked into government.”

Later asked if Ms. Bush’s comment on Twitter amounted to antisemitism, Ms. Jean Pierre said, “I cannot speak to other congressional members in the House. That is for them to speak [about] why they choose to boycott or to do whatever it is that they’re doing today. But what we can speak to is our commitment, our long-standing commitment to Israel, our long-standing support to Israel. And that is something that the president will continue to be committed to.”

Mr. Herzog will address Congress on June 19. The modern state of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948.

Jackson Richman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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