Washington – President Biden met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House on Tuesday amid ongoing tensions between the two countries overs controversial projects of And in the West Bank.
The president’s meeting with Herzog, whose stance is mostly symbolic, allows him to reaffirm his longstanding support for Israel without embracing Netanyahu, who hasn’t met Biden since.
“That friendship, I believe, is just unbreakable,” Mr Biden said ahead of their Oval Office meeting.
Mr. Biden spoke to Netanyahu by telephone a day before Herzog’s visit, inviting him to meet in the United States before the end of the year. Mr Biden “underscored his unwavering and unwavering commitment to Israel’s security”, but also expressed concern about his administration’s far-right policies, according to the White House’s reading of the appeal. It is unclear whether the two leaders will meet at the White House.
Mr Biden has criticized Netanyahu’s efforts to overhaul Israel’s independent judiciary and weaken the power of its Supreme Court, which has sparked widespread protests in Israel. Mr Biden also raised concerns about Israel’s continued growth of settlements in the West Bank.
Earlier this month, Mr Biden called Netanyahu’s cabinet “extreme” and said the US was “trying to suppress what’s going on”.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden’s invitation to Netanyahu does not mean those concerns have been alleviated.
“That doesn’t mean that … we are less concerned about these judicial reforms or less concerned about some of the extremist activities and behaviors of certain members of the Netanyahu cabinet,” Kirby said Monday. “These concerns are still valid.”
Herzog told Mr Biden he was “thrilled” to hear about the call with Netanyahu.
“Some of our haters sometimes misunderstand that we can have differences as impacting our unbreakable bond,” he said.
Herzog referenced Mr Biden’s concerns, saying Israel was going through a “heated debate” as a society, but said its democracy was “healthy, strong and resilient”.
“We are going through difficult times,” he said. “We should always seek to find an amicable consensus, and I agree with you on that as well.”
Herzog, who also visited the White House last year, also plans to meet Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He will also address Congress on Wednesday, marking the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence. He will be only the second Israeli president to address both houses of Congress; the first was his father, Chaim Herzog, in 1987.
Before arriving in Washington, Herzog’s spokesman said the purpose of the trip was “to strengthen the relationship and partnership between the United States and Israel, and to reflect the deep ties between the countries.”
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President Biden meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog