Ambassador Herzog says Israel maintains freedom to act apart from Iran deal

Herzog says Abraham Accords are “really an amazing achievement and a key to a better future in our region.”

 Ambassador Mike Herzog (photo credit: Dan Kitri)
Ambassador Mike Herzog
(photo credit: Dan Kitri)

WASHINGTON – The Jewish Federations of North America held its Washington Conference on Wednesday and Thursday, featuring US senators and Israeli officials.

Israeli Ambassador to Washington Mike Herzog, in his remarks about the Abraham Accords, said that the agreements were “really an amazing achievement and a key to a better future in our region.”

“This is a warm peace, it’s not just a cold peace between governments,” he said. “The sky's the limit, it really is a success story, and people look at it and say ‘We want to join.’ We are now looking to deepen the agreements but also to expand them and to add additional countries. I hope that others will join. I think that there is potential.”

Asked about the chances that Saudi Arabia will join the agreements, Herzog replied, “We would love to see Saudi Arabia join [the Abraham Accords].” He said it might have to happen “incrementally” but that he was hopeful it could be achieved “in due time.”

“I think it’s good for us, for the region and for the US,” he added. Speaking about the prospect of reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, Herzog said, “Even if there is a deal, Israel is not part of the deal, and we maintain our freedom of action.”

 THE FOREIGN MINISTERS of Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and UAE, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talk while posing for a photo at the Negev Summit last month. A regional security axis with US backing is a realistic option. (credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters) THE FOREIGN MINISTERS of Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and UAE, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talk while posing for a photo at the Negev Summit last month. A regional security axis with US backing is a realistic option. (credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters)

He also addressed a question about Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera journalist who was killed in Jenin on Wednesday morning.

“We are investigating what happened there. The IDF went in to arrest a person that intelligence said was about to commit a terror attack,” said Herzog. He added that the Palestinian Authority refused a joint forensic investigation.

The ambassador went on to say that while it’s still unknown what happened, “They already made a judgment accusing us.”

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee) said he strongly opposes the removal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, as well as any agreement that will be approved by the president without being submitted as a treaty.

“Any agreement that’s related to the nuclear program with Iran must be submitted to the Senate and the House for congressional review, including up-or-down votes,” said Hagerty.

He said that if the administration will not submit the agreement to the Senate, it would be “ignoring the law and undermining the role of the Senate in US foreign policy.”

Hagerty added that any agreement that doesn’t include advice and consent and manage to get 67 votes in the senate “will not survive the next presidential administration” and will be ripped up, “exactly like last time.” He went on to say that without Senate support, the next Republican administration would snap back sanctions on Iran once taking office.

The senator also voiced an opposition to the reopening of a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, noted that both the Bennett-Lapid government, as well as the Netanyahu government before that, opposed the move.

“I was deeply troubled last year when the current administration proposed to reopen a second US mission in Jerusalem – a move that would begin to reverse the recognition of Jerusalem and to divide Israel’s eternal and undivided capital city,” he said.

“During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last year, I also got Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon to confirm, on the record, that diplomatic protocol, in fact, requires the affirmative consent of the host nation, in this case, the government of Israel in order to open or reopen the proposed US consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. I can’t tell you how many calls I got from Israel thanking me for this.”