Jewish Groups Applaud Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s Speech to Congress

July 19, 2023
Israeli President Isaac Herzog addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Capitol on July 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jewish groups were laudatory of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to Congress on Wednesday celebrating the 75th birthday of the State of Israel.

Herzog’s speech featured the Israeli president touting the close friendship between the Jewish state and the United States, warning of a nuclear Iran and stating that Israel will do whatever it takes to stop that from happening, and expressing a longing for peace with the Palestinians. “Over the years, Israel has taken bold steps towards peace and made far reaching proposals to our Palestinian neighbors,” Herzog said. “Notwithstanding the deep political differences, and the numerous challenges that surround Israeli-Palestinian relations––and I do not ignore them—but it should be clear that one cannot talk about peace while condoning or legitimizing terror, implicitly or explicitly. True peace cannot be anchored in violence.”

He also appeared to indirectly reference the handful of progressive Democrat members of Congress who boycotted his speech. “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 said. “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. Vilifying and attacking Jews, whether in Israel, in the United States, or anywhere in the world is antisemitism. Antisemitism is a disgrace in every form, and I commend President Joe Biden for laying out the United States’ first ever National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism.”

As for the specter of judicial reform, Herzog acknowledged “the questions posed by our greatest of friends. The momentous debate in Israel is painful, and deeply unnerving, because it highlights the cracks within the whole. As President of Israel, I am here to tell the American people, and each of you, that I have great confidence in Israeli democracy. Although we are working through sore issues, just like you, I know our democracy is strong and resilient.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt issued a Twitter thread of takeaways from Herzog’s speech. “Israel still faces deep security challenges and US support is vital: President @Isaac_Herzog was unequivocal in the need for the US and Israel to counter the dangers posed by Iran to the Jewish State, the US and the international community more broadly,” Greenblatt wrote. He added that “criticism of Israeli policy is ok, delegitimization is not. Pres. Herzog respects criticism of policies, including from friends, but negating Israel’s right to exist by ‘questioning the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, is not legitimate diplomacy, it is antisemitism.’” Greenblatt also said he was “heartened” and inspired by Herzog’s “commitment to doing everything to ensure @Israel remains a strong and vibrant democracy – ‘safeguarded by its strong Supreme Court and independent judiciary.’”

American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch said in a statement, “President Herzog’s address to Congress is a potent symbol of the ironclad partnership between the U.S. and Israel and how it has transformed the Middle East. It also underscores the president’s vital role as a bridge builder, one who offers pragmatic and actionable solutions to many of the issues that confront Israel. His voice is one we need to hear more. Israel has no better emissary. I know him personally as someone whose commitment and love for his nation knows no bounds. That passion was on full display today on Capitol Hill.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted, “The President’s role in Israeli society is unique. His message to the American people was one of gratitude for their solidarity and redoubling the Jewish [State]’s commitment to energize the values that drive our democracies.”

Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations Chair Harriet P. Schleifer and CEO William Daroff also said in a statement, “We commend Israeli President Isaac Herzog for his historic address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress and extend our utmost appreciation for his poignant and insightful speech, which highlighted the sacred bond between the U.S. and Israel rooted in shared democratic values. President Herzog’s address serves as a testament to the unwavering bond between the Israeli and American peoples. Furthermore, we applaud Congress for displaying overwhelming bipartisan support for the US–Israel partnership, as demonstrated by yesterday’s 412-9 House of Representatives vote.” The resolution stated, “Israel is not a racist or apartheid state, Congress rejects all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia, and the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.”

“As the Israeli people grapple with a vigorous public debate regarding judicial reform, we applaud President Herzog for his efforts to build unity and consensus within Israeli civil society,” Schleifer and Daroff added.

International Legal Forum CEO Arsen Ostrovsky tweeted, “Forget the haters, the boycotters, the naysayers. They’re irrelevant. Check out this applause that #Israel’s President @Isaac_Herzog received entering Congress for his speech today! And FYI, it went for a few more minutes still!”

Jewish Democratic Council of America President Halie Soifer tweeted, “The reception to @Isaac_Herzog was overwhelmingly positive & bipartisan, including many (many) unified standing ovations. The only time Republicans couldn’t bother to stand & clap with Dems was for LGBTQ+ rights in Israel. Really, @GOP?”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.