“The United States is Israel's closest and most important friend and partner. The relationship between our countries is unique in its strength, which has rightly made it an unassailable alliance.” – Israeli President Isaac Herzog
Israeli President Isaac Herzog addresses a special joint session of Congress on July 20 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Israel as a modern state. The United States and Israel have cultivated a strong strategic alliance for many decades. President Herzog’s visit to America highlights the importance of this mutually beneficial partnership.
President Herzog comes from a family dedicated to public service for the Jewish people and Israel. Isaac Herzog is Israel’s 11th president; his father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s sixth president, serving from 1983 until 1993. His son has been president since July 2021. Israel’s president is a largely ceremonial role, playing a key role in maintaining relationships with other nations. Israel is a parliamentary democracy with both a prime minister and a president. The prime minister – currently Benjamin Netanyahu – is the political leader.
His father, Chaim Herzog, was born in Belfast in 1918 and raised in Dublin. He was the son of Ireland’s chief rabbi. Chaim immigrated to Israel while it was under British mandate in 1935 and served in Israel’s pre-state paramilitary. His son, Isaac, is the first president born in Israel since it was re-established as an independent country.
Isaac served as a member of Israel’s Knesset (parliament) and chair of its Labor party before being elected to the leadership of the Jewish Agency for Israel. A current focus area at JAFI is connecting Jews worldwide to one another and to Israel. Isaac is only the second Israeli president to address the U.S. Congress; his father was the first – more than 35 years ago.
House leaders Hakeem Jeffries and Kevin McCarthy are hosting President Herzog for this special occasion. He will meet with President Biden at the White House and hold meetings with senior administration officials, including VP Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Their meetings will focus on political, security and economic issues. He will also travel to NY to meet with the governor and mayor, and the UN secretary general.
President Herzog also is committed to speaking with millennial Jewish leaders. In April, he launched a new initiative, Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue. The goal of the program is to bring together Jews from around the world to speak with each other. President Herzog is “convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within: our own polarization and alienation from one another,” particularly in light of the current discord over the judicial reform effort in Israel. He is committed to “building bridges and strengthening relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.”
U.S. Representatives and Senators overwhelmingly support Israel. Outspoken critics – Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Pramila Jayapal and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – announced a boycott of the event. Rep. Jayapal went so far as to describe the Jewish state as a “racist state,” later retracting her remark.
In response, progressive Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Minority Leader Jeffries supported Israel. Rep. Torres “set the record straight on Jewish and Arab citizens enjoying equal protection under the laws.” Democratic leaders reiterated the “uniquely special relationship” and other Democrats circulated a letter stating that “Israel remains the only vibrant, progressive and inclusive democracy in the region.”
Earlier in the year, Democrats heralded Israel’s 75 years with “Democrats and Republicans long working together to provide an iron-clad and long-term commitment to Israel’s security.” Former VP Mike Pence proclaimed that “Israel is one of our greatest and most important allies.”
President Biden invited Israeli PM Netanyahu to meet him, likely during September’s UN General Assembly meeting in NY.