OAN’s Shawntel Smith-Hill
1:21 PM – Wednesday, July 19, 2023
On Wednesday morning, Israeli President Isaac Herzog attempted to reassure Congress of the two countries’ longstanding bond.
Herzog told U.S. lawmakers that he welcomed criticism from American allies, but expressed concern over comments connecting Israel’s government with anti-Semitic sentiments.
Herzog’s address to a Congressional joint session is not a first time occurrence from Israel’s president. His father, Chaim Herzog, similarly addressed Congress back in 1987.
Despite notable absences from a handful of progressive Democrats who announced that they would boycott the address, Herzog emphasized the “true friendship” between the U.S. and Israel as one “based on values,” describing it as a “sacred bond.”
“I’m not oblivious to criticism among friends, including some expressed by respected members of this House. I respect criticism, especially from friends, although one does not always have to accept it,” Herzog told legislators.
“But criticism of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the state of Israel’s right to exist. Questioning the Jewish people’s right to self-determination is not legitimate diplomacy, it is antisemitism,” he continued.
Herzog, whose position is largely symbolic and apolitical, mentioned his desire for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, although he did not specify much detail regarding the proposals.
His address comes shortly after the house had passed a resolution in an overwhelming 412-to-9 vote on Tuesday. Emphasizing lawmakers’ support for Israel and reaffirming that it is not a racist state.
Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal recently faced backlash over her comments on Saturday, after she claimed, “Israel is a racist state.” She has since apologized, insisting that her comments were specifically aimed at Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and not Israel as a nation.
“I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” Jayapal said in a press release on Sunday. “I do, however, believe that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government.”
Herzog’s address intended to strengthen strained ties between the U.S. and Israel amid recent protests against Israeli forces who carried out settlement expansions to cement the nation’s control over the occupied West Bank area, as well as a proposed judicial overhaul carried out by Netanyahu’s government.
A large number of protestors have recently flooded the streets of Israel, demanding that the government halt the proposed overhaul. The Israeli president has consistently tried to alleviate these concerns. He bolstered his confidence that Israel’s democracy remains as strong as ever and that the country will work through whatever “issues” it is facing.
“As a nation, we must find a way to talk to each other, no matter how long it takes. As head of state, I will continue doing everything to reach broad public consensus and to preserve, protect, and defend the state of Israel’s democracy,” Herzog said.
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