Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed a special joint session of Congress on Wednesday, telling lawmakers that despite vigorous debates within Israel, or occasional differences with the U.S., “we will always be family.”
Herzog connected ongoing debates within Israel about judicial reform to America’s own internal debates about democracy, and to occasional policy disagreements between the U.S. administration and Israeli governments.
The bonds that united both sides, he said, both within nations and between them, were unbreakable. He said:
Dear friends: It’s no secret that over the past few months, the Israeli people have engaged in a heated and painful debate. We have been immersed in voicing our differences, and revisiting and renegotiating the balance of our institutional powers in the absence of a written constitution. In practice, the intense debate going on back home, even as we speak, is the clearest tribute to the fortitude of Israel’s democracy. Israel’s democracy has always been based on free and fair elections; on honoring the people’s choice; on safeguarding minority rights; on protection of human and civil liberties; and on a strong and independent judiciary. ‘
Our democracy is also 120 members of Knesset, comprised of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, representing every opinion under the Israeli sun, working and debating side-by-side. Our democracy is also late Friday afternoon, when the sound of the muezzin calling to prayer blends with the siren announcing the Sabbath in Jerusalem, while one of the largest and most impressive LGBTQ pride parades in the world is going on in Tel Aviv. Our democracy is also reflected in protesters taking to the streets all across the country to emphatically raise their voices and fervently demonstrate their points of view. Our democracy is the blue-and-white Israeli flag, waved and loved by all Israelis, taking part in the debate.
I am well affair of the imperfections of Israeli democracy, and I’m conscious of the questions posed by our greatest of friends. The momentous debate in Israel is painful and deeply unnerving because it highlights the cracks in the whole, within the entire whole. As president of Israel, I am here to tell the American people, and each of you, that I have great confidence in Israeli democracy. Although we are working through our issues, just like you, I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA.
I am deeply mindful of the challenge which this moment presents to Israeli society, and I have made it the priority of my presidency to play a leading role in this critical and emotional public discussion. I will say to you, dear friends, in English, what I said to my people, my sisters and brothers, in Hebrew back home. As a nation, we must find a way to talk to each other, no matter how long it takes. As head of state, I will continue doing everything to reach broad public consensus and to preserve, protect and defend the state of Israel’s democracy.
Dear friends: For so many Israelis, this very public debate is also very personal. It is now a little after 6 p.m. in Israel. They will sit down to dinner together beside family or friends, with whom they may severely disagree, but they are and they will always remain family. Israel and the United States will inevitably disagree on many matters. But we will always remain family.
Our revolutionary societies have so much to give to the world, and so much to learn from each other. Our bond may be challenged at times, but it is absolutely unbreakable.
Herzog also addressed the issue of antisemitism, in the wake of criticism by Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who called Israel a “racist state” over the weekend (before apologizing). He said:
Mr. Speaker, I’m not oblivious to criticism among friends, including some expressed by respected members of this house. I respect criticism, especially from friends, although one does not always have to accept it.
But criticism of israel must not cross the line into negation of the State of Israel’s right to exist.
Questioning the jewish people’s right to self-determination is not legitimate diplomacy. It is antisemitism.
On Tuesday, the House voted 412-9 for a resolution condemning antisemitism and supporting Israel, and declaring “the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state.” All nine “no” votes were from Democrats.
Herzog met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday. The White House, stung by criticism of its unprecedented decision not to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit, despite the fact that he was elected last year, announced Monday that Biden and Netanyahu would meet at some point this year.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
Read the full article here