A strong and secure nation-state of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel is critical to the safety and future of the Jewish people, President Isaac Herzog told US President Joe Biden on Thursday, before presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Honor, Israel’s highest civilian honor, which Herzog persists on calling the Medal of Honor.
“Together we can create not only a new Middle East, but a renewable Middle East: a regional ecosystem of sustainable peace,” Herzog said.
Noting the presence of ambassadors from all the countries with which Israel has signed peace accords, Herzog told Biden: “Under your leadership, we can continue transforming our region from a source of global tension to a source of global stability and progress. The Middle East can grow into a meeting point for climate innovation and combined medical research, clean energy and peaceful exchange among faiths and peoples. This is the blessing you will bring in the coming days to your meetings in Jeddah.”
Herzog then issued a warning about Iran: “Just as we are united in promoting peace and cooperation in the Middle East, we are united in our opposition to Iran’s terror and drive for a nuclear-weapons capability, which is the greatest threat to this region, and perhaps the world at large. We know the United States is committed to Israel’s security, as you have reiterated throughout this visit.”
Herzog also commended Biden’s “ironclad, unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and well-being, and his administration’s crystal-clear moral stance against all forms of antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel around the world.”
Biden wrote in Herzog's guest book the following: "Bougie, my friend, thank you for all you and your family have done to deepen the ironclad bond between our two great countries. From our shared Irish roots to our shared love of Israel, we are united in heart and spirit. May our friendship endure and continue to grow! That is the Irish of it, as my grandfather Finnegan would say. God bless you. Joe."
Quoting from the Torah which states that Israel is a people that dwells alone, Biden assured Herzog that Israel would never be alone because America will not let it be alone.
Recalling the many years in which he had seen Israel thrive, he characterized Israel’s development as “close to miraculous.”
Biden will leave Israel with more than the medal and a signed agreement. Herzog also presented him with the minutes of his meeting with Golda Meir almost half a century ago.
The on-screen rehearsals for the event were actually more interesting than the real thing, and allowed for plenty of time to observe all the transformations in the President’s Residence.
American journalists who had traveled with Biden were permitted to witness events live from a special outdoor enclosure, and President Herzog’s chief spokesman, Naor Ihia, had the grace to apologize to those Israelis who complained. Later they were allowed to go into the grounds for the official ceremony.
On the ground and in the main hall were an abundance of red carpets, far more than are usually laid out for special events.
In addition, there were so many previously non-existent floral arrangements that the President’s Residence began to look like a hybrid of the Botanical Gardens and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
A group of children dressed in white was rehearsing a flag-waving welcome to Biden as they clutched small American flags.
Herzog, without tie or jacket, came out to talk to them, but then continued with rehearsals of his own amid consultations with his senior staff on whether there should be any changes.
He rehearsed walking out to greet Biden, standing at the podium sitting in one of the armchairs that they would occupy, and listening as singers Ran Danker and Yuval Dayan rehearse their rendition of “Let it Be,” the Hebrew refrain of which is: “Let it be that we have all that we ask for.”
One could not help wondering whether the choice of song was a hint about Iran, settler expansion, the reopening of the US Consulate in Jerusalem, or some other issue on which Israel and America do not see eye to eye.
Meanwhile, presidential staff from both Israel and America were wandering around aimlessly, trying to look busy, but not really succeeding.
The number of human resources who were not actually doing anything was mind-boggling. Maintenance staff kept coming out to sweep and vacuum the royal blue carpet on stage, in front of which were rows of padded white chairs for official guests.
The red, white and blue colors of the American flags were everywhere, even draped on the walls of the journalists’ tent.
In addition to the usual police motorcycle escort, Biden’s car was accompanied to the President’s Residence by four uniformed riders on horseback.
Biden and Herzog and his wife, Michal, stopped to chat with the flag-waving children before Herzog led Biden inside to sign the guest book while sitting at a table that once belonged to Benjamin Disraeli, after which they held private talks.