Biden welcomes Israeli president, calls for enormous work for peace


by Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden and his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog stressed the close ties between the two countries on Tuesday, despite tensions with Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox government over Jewish settlements and civil rights measures in Washington.

Democratic lawmakers, citing Benjamin Netanyahu’s human rights record, said they would not attend Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress on Wednesday, the final day of his two-day tour.

During a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Joe Biden told the Israeli president that the United States’ commitment to the Jewish state was firm and steadfast.

Asserting that the two countries are working together to bring greater stability and integration to the Middle East, the US President said that “there is still a lot of work to be done, but progress has been made”.

Isaac Herzog, whose role in Israeli politics is mainly symbolic, called Joe Biden a “great friend” of Israel, saying some haters were mistaken in thinking that occasional differences with Washington could damage this “unbreakable bond.”

The Israeli government’s decision to allow settler outposts in the West Bank amid renewed violence and inflammatory comments from members of the ruling coalition has drawn criticism from US officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a visit to Israel last March.

Relations between the two countries have also been strained by Benjamin Netanyahu’s justice reform project, which his critics see as an attack on democracy and which has sparked large anti-government protests in recent months.

Contrary to tradition in Washington to quickly welcome an Israeli prime minister, Joe Biden waited to issue the invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned as head of the Israeli government last December.

The head of the White House during a telephone interview on Monday offered the Israeli prime minister to move to the United States by the end of the year.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland with Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan and David Morgan; French edition by Jean Terzien)

Add a Comment