Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog met with Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry today on the sidelines of an international security conference.
Herzog addressed political tensions between Israel and the US over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s scheduled address to the US Congress, saying that if he were prime minister, he would not have accepted an invitation from Republicans that undermines the White House and politicizes support of Israel.
“I will not attack my Prime Minister when I am abroad,” Herzog said at the beginning of his speech at the Munich
Security Conference, but when asked if he thought it was a good idea to accept such an invitation by one US political party unbeknownst to the other, Herzog said “no”.
“I wouldn’t do this if I were prime minister. This is a big issue in Israel and I think the relation with the US is strategic and not political – it should stay that way. I think it’s a strategic mistake,” Herzog said, echoing claims he made earlier, in which he urged Netanyahu to cancel the visit.
On Friday, Biden’s office said he will miss Netanyahu’s address to Congress on March 3. His office explained that he will be traveling abroad, and did not specify exactly where.
Herzog used the opportunity to lay out his security and diplomatic agenda for Israel. According to the prime minister hopeful, there are two major threats facing Israel and the region: Extremist terrorism and Iran, which he dubbed an “extremist regime” bent on Israel’s destruction.
“Israel will never tolerate a nuclear armed Iran,” Herzog said, but stressed that diplomacy was key to addressing the issues. Leveling an indirect critique of Netanyahu, Herzog insinuated that Netanyahu’s US speech actually posed a threat to Israel’s bid to stop Iran.
“The definition of true national security requires more than guns – as essential as they are – it also requires a strong economy, a strong society and strong alliances, like the strategic alliances Israel has with the US,” he said in a thinly veiled jab at Netanyahu.
“Our destiny and duty is to protect the Jewish people alone – if am committed to this duty. Yet we Israelis know that a nation is stronger when it stands with allies and has political, economic, diplomatic and moral strength.
“That is when a nation is so strong that it does not have to use the power that comes from the barrels of a gun,” Herzog said during his speech.
Herzog insisted that such alliances were prerequisite to addressing all forms of extremist terror: From Hamas’s terror tunnels and rockets at Israel, to the Islamic State terror group and Iran’s funding of terror activities.
Herzog said that the threat of terror actually united Israel and Arab states, and that the threat they posed could serve as the basis for a regional allegiance.
“In the Mideast extremist terrorism is a threat faced not just by Israel but by a large number of Arab nations.
“We Israelis might have issues with many of these Arab states but I identify a clear convergence of interest – this is the basis for a regional alliance which can create a broader sense of security for Israel and the region.”
When asked about the Palestinian issue, Herzog said Israeli-Palestinian relations were at an all time low: “We are in one of the worst stages with the Palestinians, they have chosen the path of unilateralism instead of negotiations.
“They and Israelis are frustrated and I will restart the process – first with confidence building efforts and then with regional efforts… I cannot promise success, but I can promise a major effort to project hope and a better future for people in Palestine and Israel. ”