By MIKE WAGENHEIM
With both Israeli and American elections looming, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with an array of audiences on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Washington, revealing evidence of Iranian involvement in Ukraine and hailing Israel’s role in a number of regional accords.
Among those Herzog met on Tuesday was U.S. Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein Hochstein, the administration’s mediator in the Israel-Lebanon maritime border negotiations. Herzog and Hochstein discussed the details and terms of the border agreement, which is set to be signed this week. Herzog then held an audience with dozens of leaders from the American Jewish community, before a sit-down with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken hailed the success of the Abraham Accords normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab states, and said that the administration has been working to build on them.
“The work that we’ve been doing to try to deepen and expand the Abraham Accords, the normalization of Israel’s relationship with its neighbors and with countries even beyond its immediate neighborhood, is important and powerful, and we’re committed to doing that,” Blinken told Herzog.
Points At Iran
The secretary of state also called for a de-escalation of tensions and violence in Judea and Samaria, amid ongoing Israeli counter-terrorism operations there.
Turning to the topic of Iran, Herzog expressed solidarity with Iranian protesters, and said during his visit he would be presenting evidence to Biden administration officials of Iranian weapons being used by Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“We will be discussing the challenges that Iran poses to us and to humanity at large,” said Herzog. “Our hearts go out to the people of Iran. The women of Iran are oppressed and attacked day in, day out, and I will be exposing more of the fact that Iran—that the Iranian weapons are used against civilians, innocent civilians in Ukraine.
At an Atlantic Council event on Tuesday marking the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, Herzog showed slides showing images of an Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched by the Islamic Republic in a military exercise last year, followed by a photo showing the same type of drone downed during the fighting in Ukraine.
The Israeli defense establishment, he said, had proved that despite Iranian denials and attempts to obscure the origins of the drones, they were certainly of Iranian manufacture.
“Yet again, Iran has proven that it cannot be trusted, and wherever there is killing, destruction and hatred—it’s there. Iranian weapons play a key role in destabilizing our world, and the international community must learn its lessons, now and in the future,” said Herzog. “The world must speak with Iran in the same language: a tough, united and uncompromising language. As we are repeatedly discovering, for every hesitation about Iran—there is a price.”
Invite To Congress
Finally, Herzog headed to Capitol Hill for a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and an array of congressional leaders. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer extended an invitation to Herzog to address a joint meeting of Congress to celebrate the “historic and joyous milestone” of Israel’s upcoming 75th anniversary.
“It is in celebration of this great anniversary for the State of Israel and in recognition of the deep partnership between our nations that, on behalf of the bipartisan, bicameral Leadership of the Congress, we invite you to address a joint meeting of Congress,” they said. The letter did not specify a potential date for Herzog’s address.
When Herzog greeted a largely admiring crowd of dozens of American Jewish leaders in a Washington hotel conference room earlier on Tuesday, Oct. 25, Herzog’s brother, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, asked those in attendance to try to keep politics out of the discussion.
The Israeli president, however, was more realistic, telling the crowd that none of them could completely ignore the current reality.
“You have elections and midterms, we have elections in Israel next week. I think one thing should transcend both—the friendship and close bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and it is a value that we must all cherish and work for. May I also add we must respect each other’s democracies,” President Herzog said.
“There will be, of course, discussions about the outcome,” he noted of the elections. “First and foremost, the underlying rule should be ‘we honor and respect democracy.’ ”
At the time of this writing Herzog was expected to meet to meet on Wednesday with President Biden and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan before returning to Israel.