“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 addressed 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. He is Israel’s 11th president; his father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s sixth president, serving from 1983 until 1993. Isaac Herzog 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.
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. 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 Herzog 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 met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House and held meetings with senior administration officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Their meetings focused on political, security and economic issues. He further arranged to travel to New York to meet with Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
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 (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) 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 (D-N.Y.) 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 Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed that “Israel is one of our greatest and most important allies.”
President Biden invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to the White House for a visit, likely during September’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.
Points to consider:
- The U.S.-Israel alliance is essential to both nations.
The bilateral alliance undeniably provides advantages to both countries. The United States benefits from a strong and reliable regional partner, enhancing its security interests in the region. Israel receives significant military support, bolstering its defense capabilities and ensuring its security. Both countries share intelligence, engage in joint military exercises and cooperate on counterterrorism efforts. They have jointly developed air defense systems, including the Iron Dome, and routinely train together to confront mutual threats, such as Iran. The partnership extends beyond defense, including economic collaboration, trade, investment and technological innovation.
- The United States and Israel are working together to solve global problems.
Both countries are actively collaborating to address global challenges, including climate change and the Abraham Accords. They engage in joint initiatives to develop sustainable solutions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Israel’s expertise in renewable energy, water conservation and agricultural innovation aligns with America’s commitment to advancing clean-energy technologies and promoting environmental sustainability. The Abraham Accords marked a significant diplomatic breakthrough. The United States played a crucial role in facilitating agreements between Israel and many Arab countries, aiming to promote regional stability, cooperation and economic development. America is currently leading efforts to bring Saudi Arabia into the Accords. Growing diplomatic normalization furthers global peace and prosperity.
- Israelis and Americans view each other favorably.
Surveys consistently show that a majority of Israelis hold a positive perception of the United States and Americans, and Americans tend to have a favorable view of Israel and its people. A recent Pew survey revealed that 87% of Israelis have a positive view of America and a survey from the prior year showed that 67% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Israelis. The positive perceptions contribute to the strong bond between the two countries. It serves as a foundation for cooperation and understanding. The favorable view shared between Israelis and Americans is an important asset that underpins the enduring alliance and friendship between the two nations.
- Israel enjoys bipartisan congressional support.
Israel’s bipartisan Congressional support is a testament to the enduring and robust relationship between the two nations. Both Democrats and Republicans have consistently demonstrated unwavering backing for Israel’s security. This support is reflected in numerous ways, including passing legislation, resolutions and the allocation of mutually beneficial aid. The broad consensus across party lines underscores the recognition of Israel as a vital ally in a volatile region. Maintaining bipartisan support ensures that the U.S.-Israel alliance remains strong and resilient, enabling continued partnership to address common challenges and advance shared interests in the Middle East and beyond.
- American Jews and Israeli Jews need to talk more with each other.
Promoting increased dialogue between American and Israeli Jews is essential to foster stronger connections and understanding. Despite the strong historical and cultural ties between the two communities, distance and different realities on the ground can make relating to one another difficult. Israeli Jews live as a majority in Israel while having endured years of terrorism, and U.S. Jews live as a minority in America while facing increasing levels of anti-Jewish hatred. Dialogue can strengthen the sense of shared identity, promote mutual understanding and lead to more effective advocacy efforts on issues of common concern, such as combatting antisemitism, supporting Israel’s security and advancing the Abraham Accords.