President Isaac Herzog plans to fly to Washington on Monday night at a time of increased tensions between Israel and the US.
The trip is meant “to strengthen the relations and the partnership between the US and Israel and to reflect the deep ties between the countries which are placed above all controversy,” the president’s office stated.
Herzog’s visit comes the week after US President Joe Biden called the current Israeli government the "most extreme" he has ever seen, citing its ministers' support for Israeli Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Biden has publicly declined to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington over the government's policies, including judicial reform, which US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides repeatedly called to slow down.
The two presidents are expected to meet at the White House this week, to discuss “political, security, and economic issues.”
Herzog is also expected to meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Herzog is also set to give an address to both Houses of Congress, marking 75 years of Israel’s independence. He will be the second Israeli president to do so, following his father, Chaim Herzog, in 1987.
Herzog said he is “looking forward to representing the entire State of Israel… before the elected representatives of the American people.
“The United States is Israel’s closest and most important friend and partner,” he said. “The relationship between our countries is unique in its strength, which has rightly made it an unassailable alliance.”
Herzog thanked Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and his predecessor Nancy Pelosi for inviting him to address Congress.
Herzog plans to emphasize importance of expanding Abraham Accords
In the speech, the president plans to emphasize the importance of “expanding the circle of regional peace” between Israel and Arab states, and “the essential need to fight against the hatred and terrorism that Iran is spreading while it pursues nuclear weapons.”
Herzog also said that, in all of his meetings, he will talk about the “internal challenges and opportunities facing Israeli society.”
Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Jamaal Bowman of New York, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said they would be boycotting Herzog’s speech, and several other progressive members of Congress had yet to decide if they would attend.
The president will travel from Washington to New York City to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and New York Mayor Eric Adams.
The local Jewish Federation will host an event at which Herzog will meet young leaders, which he said reflects his “actions to build bridges between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.”
Herzog invited Leah Goldin to accompany him on the trip. Goldin is the mother of Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in battle with Hamas during Operation Protective Edge. The terrorist group has held her son’s body captive since 2014.
Ahead of the trip, Netanyahu told Herzog last Thursday that Israel has two redlines.
“Israel will not agree to an American return to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran and will act with every means it has to stop Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon,” a source close to Netanyahu said.
In addition, “Israel will not agree to a ‘no surprises’ policy when it comes to Iran.”
Another source close to Netanyahu argued last week that, while the Biden administration is critical of the coalition’s judicial reform and is even more critical of plans to build thousands of new homes in Israeli towns in the West Bank, their main gripe is about Iran and Netanyahu’s refusal to adopt a “no surprises” policy relating to actions against Tehran.
Iran is an “existential issue,” the source said. “The Biden administration is repeating the texts of the Obama era – that we have to be quiet and accept [US policy] in the name of the special relationship. We can’t accept that.”