NEW YORK - Israel’s enemies are mistaken to think that US-Israel tensions mean the alliance between the countries is weakened, President Isaac Herzog said on Thursday, reflecting on his visit to the White House this week.
“I spoke with [US President Joe] Biden in the Oval Office and I said: There are some enemies who don’t understand two things,” the president said. “Even if we have a dispute, our relations remain above all disputes.”
The same is true for the heated internal debate about judicial reform in Israel, Herzog said, expressing confidence at the strength and cohesiveness of Israeli society.
Still, he said, this conflict “has ramifications, because our enemies…misinterpret the dispute and think we are weaker.”
Biden told Herzog, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call at the beginning of the week, that his commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.
Herzog and the US-Israel relationship
Herzog left Washington certain of the fortitude of the US-Israel relationship.
He called his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday “a special event.”
“Putting aside the disputes and the situation in Israel, one thing stood out a lot, that there is great love for Israel [in both parties], contrary to the impression interpreted by Israelis that all is lost,” he said.
Herzog cited positive responses he received after his speech from American Jews and others.
According to a source in the president’s delegation, Herzog found that Democrats and Republicans went out of their way to welcome and honor him.
“There is controversy [about Israel] with the progressives and the extreme right Republicans, but the vast majority came and brought a massive quantity of guests to the speech,” the source pointed out.
Biden, his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought up concerns with Herzog about the judicial reform and, as the White House said in its readout of the meeting, called for a slowdown in the process of passing the related bills and for the coalition to try to reach a broad consensus. The president expressed support for Herzog’s efforts to negotiate a compromise.
In addition, the Palestinians were a central topic of discussion in the meeting with Herzog, with an emphasis on concerns that the Palestinian Authority would collapse. Blinken and Sullivan supported a recent Israeli Security Cabinet decision to help improve the PA economy and want it to be implemented, as they see the PA’s continued survival as a national security interest for Israel.
When it comes to Iran, administration figures said they do not see a path to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Vice President Kamala Harris expressed deep concerns to Herzog about the Iranian nuclear program.
Herzog raised the issue of Hezbollah terrorists infiltrating Israel’s northern border with Biden administration officials as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, expressing concern that the matter could escalate further.