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Tags: isaac herzog | israeli | president | israel | joint session | congress | speech

Israel's Herzog: Don't Let Iran 'Wipe Israel Off the Map'

By    |   Wednesday, 19 July 2023 12:38 PM EDT

President Isaac Herzog marked 75 years of Israeli independence Wednesday in an address to a joint session of Congress, but warned Israel's existence is at risk with Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations.

"Iran does not strive to attain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; Iran is building nuclear capabilities that pose a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond," Herzog told Congress on Wednesday.

"The world cannot remain indifferent to the Iranian regime's call to wipe Israel off the map," Herzog added. "Tolerating this call and Iran's measures to realize it is an inexcusable moral collapse."

Herzog holds a largely ceremonial role in Israeli politics, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the country's top decision-maker, but Herzog told Congress that allowing Iran to become a nuclear power would be unacceptable and dangerous in the Middle East and the world.

He accused Iran of spreading "hatred, terror and suffering" in the Middle East and of "adding fuel to the disastrous fire and suffering in Ukraine" through the supply of drones to Russia.

"Backed by the free world, Israel and the United States must act forcefully together to prevent Iran's fundamental threat to international security," he said.

"The State of Israel is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities," he added.

Herzog addressed Congress, celebrating the country's friendship with Washington, but warning against criticism of the government seeping into antisemitism.

Herzog's remarks came amid a row in the House over the policies of Netanyahu's administration that has highlighted fissures in Democratic Party support for the Middle Eastern ally.

"I am 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," Herzog told Congress, earning raucous applause.

"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."

Herzog is far less controversial than Netanyahu, but President Joe Biden's party has nevertheless been convulsed by infighting over the visit.

A handful of congressional Democrats are longstanding critics of the conservative-leaning Israeli government, accusing it of disenfranchising Palestinians, and boycotted the speech.

Nine Democrats voted against a resolution backing Israel brought Tuesday by top Republican Kevin McCarthy, the only House speaker in 25 years to address the country's parliament, the Knesset.

The resolution was intended as a rebuke of Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who sparked an angry backlash from her own party over the weekend by calling Israel a "racist state."

She retracted her statement under intense pressure from Democratic colleagues and apologized, saying she did not believe "the idea of Israel as a nation is racist."

Herzog, who spoke of living in New York in the 1970s, lauded his country's relationship with "our greatest partner and friend," voicing gratitude for U.S. "commitment to Israel's security."

"Israel's first 75 years were rooted in an ancient dream. Let us base our next 75 years on hope," he said.

"Our shared hope, that we can heal our fractured world, as the closest of allies and friends."

Controversial Reforms

The address came with the Biden-Netanyahu relationship under strain over contentious plans to reform the Israeli court system and expand Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Biden, who hosted Herzog in the Oval Office on Tuesday, urged Israel's government Wednesday not to "rush" the changes, which have prompted giant demonstrations.

"Finding consensus on controversial areas of policy means taking the time you need," Biden was quoted as saying in a New York Times column.

Herzog – who earned multiple standing ovations during his 45-minute address – said the "painful, and deeply unnerving" demonstrations were the "clearest tribute to the fortitude of Israel's democracy."

"Although we are working through sore issues, just like you, I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA," he told lawmakers.

He expressed his "deep yearning" for peace with the Palestinian people but called the celebration of terror attacks against Israelis a "moral disgrace." He also urged the world to show a united front against Iranian aggression, calling Tehran's nuclear program the "greatest" foreign policy challenge for both nations.

Invoking Abraham Lincoln's desire to see a homeland for Jews to live in peace, Herzog told the chamber that Israel and the United States had "always stood for the same values."

"Our two nations are both diverse, life-affirming societies that stand for liberty, equality, and freedom," he said.

"At our core, both our peoples seek to repair the cracks in our world."

Information from Agence France-Presse was used to compile this report.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

President Isaac Herzog marked 75 years of Israeli independence Wednesday in an address to a joint session of Congress, but warned Israel's existence is at risk with Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations.
isaac herzog, israeli, president, israel, joint session, congress, speech, iran
Wednesday, 19 July 2023 12:38 PM
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