Politics

Israel’s Herzog Meets Biden Amid America’s Anger With Netanyahu – The New York Times


When Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called Israel a “racist state” on Saturday, White House officials were quick to proclaim America’s “iron” relationship with its Middle Eastern ally and made it clear that the president Biden took issue with his comments.

But when Biden appeared on CNN for an interview several days earlier, he declared that some members of the current Israeli government were “the most extreme” he had seen in nearly four decades, a startling assessment from that same ally.

Since taking office, Biden has struggled to navigate through one of the most complicated periods of diplomatic tension between the United States and Israel, often explicitly distancing himself from the voices of the extremes. His effort has become even more difficult in recent days, as he finds himself running against the grain of Republicans, members of his own party and growing unrest in Israel.

On Tuesday, Biden sought to show the ties that still bind the two governments by hosting Isaac Herzog, who serves as Israel’s largely ceremonial president, for an Oval Office meeting.

“Welcome back, nice to have you here,” Biden told Herzog, noting that Israel was celebrating 75 years of existence. He gave Mr. Herzog a fist bump and called the US-Israel relationship “simply unbreakable.”

It was not lost on anyone that Biden did not offer the same warm embrace to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hardline prime minister, who returned to power in December. In a striking example of the president’s diplomatic balancing act, Biden on Monday ended months of tightening his arms with Netanyahu, inviting him to a face-to-face meeting in the United States sometime before the end of the year.

But even that gesture was designed to carve out something of a middle ground for Biden to fill: His aides pointedly declined to say whether the prime minister would be received at the White House or somewhere less politically desirable to Netanyahu.

Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York, said Biden found an effective way to silence criticism from Republicans that he had yet to invite Netanyahu while snubbing him.

“You can quell this by simply making a call, giving him an opinion on the constitutional question and the Palestinian question, listening to his complaints about Iran policy and then not even committing to a visit,” Pinkas said. . “You know, if he brings up the subject of the visit, you’ll say, ‘Yeah, we’ll meet in the future.’ It could be at the General Assembly in New York in September, it could be who knows when and where.’”

At the same time, the US president is wary of deep animosity toward the Israeli government from some members of his own party, which threatens to undermine the decades-old military and strategic alliance in a vital and increasingly volatile part of the world.

“Biden simply cannot afford to paint the entire Democratic Party with blatant and open hostility and be perceived as a fundamental adversary of Israel,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He added that Biden is not willing to follow the model of former President Donald J. Trump, who supported Netanyahu wholeheartedly until there was a spat between the two leaders late in his presidency.

“He knows it’s bad for the interests of the United States,” Miller said of Biden bringing his administration too close to the prime minister. “He also knows that he is bad for his credibility.”

Mr. Biden is not the first president to struggle to manage the relationship with Israel. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton clashed with Israeli leaders, and former President Barack Obama had years of icy encounters with Netanyahu as the two men clashed over settlements and Iran policy.

But few presidents have been forced to deal with so much income at once.

Ms. Jayapal’s comments, for which she later apologized and which sparked a House resolution in support of Israelunderscored the political pressure on Mr. Biden from a small contingent of his party to hold Israel accountable for what those members say are crimes against the Palestinians.

However, Republicans, including Trump, the favorite to be their party’s 2024 presidential nominee, have increased their criticism of Biden and the administration for not supporting Israel and Netanyahu. Biden’s refusal to invite Netanyahu to the United States was a key talking point for Biden’s opponents.

In Israel, traditional disagreements over the settlements and Iran have joined protests over Netanyahu’s plan to reform the judicial system. The fierce debate has drawn Biden into an internal dispute over the fundamental questions of democratic values ​​and ideals that have been at the center of the alliance between the two countries for decades.

The delicate maneuvering has unfolded against the backdrop of a shifting approach for Biden’s foreign policy team.

The war in Ukraine has become Mr. Biden’s main national security focus over the past 18 months as he seeks to rally Europe and other countries to oppose Russia’s brutal invasion of its neighbor. His administration has also refocused attention on China’s military and economic threat to the United States and its allies.

“The focal point of American diplomacy has really changed with the war in Ukraine,” said Dore Gold, Israel’s former permanent representative to the United Nations and a former adviser to Netanyahu.

“I think that’s where the president is focused: building a coalition” to support Ukraine and Eastern Europe “and reshaping NATO for the challenges the United States now faces,” Gold said.

Israel remains a central US ally in the Middle East, receiving billions of dollars in aid each year. In Mr. Herzog’s visit Tuesday, White House officials said Mr. Biden emphasized areas of cooperation, including progress toward normalizing relations with other Middle Eastern countries and diplomatic efforts with the Palestinians. .

Some supporters in the United States consider Mr. Herzog, who ran against Mr. Netanyahu almost a decade agoto be a bridge-builder whose efforts to find a middle ground in Israel’s tense political climate are a welcome departure from some of the more extreme elements in the country’s government.

But even before Tuesday, his visit was controversial. Several Liberal lawmakers said they would boycott Mr. Herzog’s planned speech to Congress on Wednesday to protest against the government of Mr. Netanyahu. Nine Democrats voted Tuesday against a House resolution stating that Israel is not an apartheid state.

White House officials had previously said that Biden planned to raise concerns about Israeli government settlement expansion, which his administration views as an impediment to an eventual two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Officials had said Biden would also express to Herzog his discomfort with Netanyahu’s efforts to make changes to the judicial system that critics say would undermine the power of Israel’s Supreme Court.

In brief comments to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Herzog confirmed that the two leaders discussed such a wide range of topics. Mr. Herzog acknowledged what he called “internal problems in Israel,” referring to the judicial changes proposed by Mr. Netanyahu.

“I reiterated my commitment, as I said before: Israeli democracy is strong and resilient,” Mr. Herzog said. “And we should definitely see the current debate in Israel, with all its facets, as a tribute to the strengths of Israeli democracy.”

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Patrick Kingsley from jerusalem



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Raven Asher

Hey there, I'm Raven Asher, a writer and blogger currently studying at McMaster University. My passion lies in arts and culture, and I love exploring and sharing my thoughts on different aspects of this field through my writing. I've been fortunate enough to have my articles featured on several blogs and news websites, which has allowed me to connect with readers from all over the world. Apart from writing, I'm also an avid traveler, and I love experiencing different cultures and learning new things. Join me on my journey as I explore the world and share my insights on everything art and culture!

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