While the 28th consecutive week of protests against the controversial judicial reform takes place in his country, the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, has given a mass bath in the White House and the US Congress, which has received him with a two part ovation to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. The visit of the Israeli head of state to the United States has been interpreted as a way to calm tensions following President Joe Biden’s criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who governs at the head of an extreme right-wing coalition with ultra-Orthodox parties. .
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At the beginning of the month, the president accused Netanyahu of having created “one of the most extremist cabinets in the history” of Israel, mainly because of that controversial judicial reform and because of the heavy-handed policy against the Palestinians.
Although Herzog, a largely symbolic figure, takes a more moderate position, his invitation serves to tone down Israel. “I bring a message of appreciation from the people of Israel, from the entire country, from all sides of the political spectrum,” Herzog said Tuesday before meeting with Biden, who called the relationship between the two countries “simply indestructible.”
Likewise, to reduce these tensions, the American held a “long and warm” call with Netanyahu on Monday and took the opportunity to invite him to the US, for the first time since he formed the coalition government last December. During the call, which lasted approximately three-quarters of an hour, Biden reiterated the “shared democratic values that have always been at the core of the US-Israel relationship,” as Homeland Security spokesman John Kirby has said.
Biden has been a staunch defender of Israel during the more than 50 years of his political career, and meeting with Herzog has allowed him to continue that position without the need to meet with Netanyahu.
condemnation of the left
Progressive voices in Washington have criticized Herzog’s visit and Netanyahu’s formal invitation, interpreted as legitimizing an ultra-conservative government and a country that maintains a brutal occupation regime in Palestine and that is about to enact a controversial reform that According to its detractors, it would end the separation of powers.
Precisely, while Herzog was boasting in the White House of his alliance with the US, the Israeli Parliament is preparing to definitively approve a law that limits the powers of the Supreme Court.
Some Democratic lawmakers have refused to attend Herzog’s speech to Congress, including Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian woman elected to Congress. A floor speech is a ceremonial act reserved only for state visits of great importance and, during Biden’s tenure, has been done by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; the Indian, Narenda Modi, and the South Korean Yoon Suk Yeol, three crucial geopolitical allies in the face of the expansionist ambitions of Russia and China.
The Lower House approved a resolution on Monday giving its “unconditional” support to Israel and pointing out that it is not a “racist” state or where there is a apartheid. The resolution garnered 412 votes in favor and just 9 against, all from Democratic lawmakers from the party’s progressive wing, including Tlaib herself, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Democrat Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Progressive Caucus in Congress, had described Israel as a “racist state” a few days ago, stating that Washington must rethink its relationship with Israel, which is receiving less and less support among citizens. Those comments led to swift condemnation by Democratic Party leaders on Capitol Hill and were politically exploited by Republicans, who condemned the congresswoman’s “anti-Semitism” with a vote in the House of Representatives.
Jayapal had to qualify his statements on Sunday, after almost fifty legislators wrote a letter condemning his statements, but he reiterated that he considers that the current Israeli Executive has carried out “discriminatory and racist” policies.
A key ally in the Middle East
The episode has shown the differences within the Democratic Party regarding US policy with Israel, which, beyond its harmful policies against human rights, continues to be a key ally in the Middle East, especially vis-a-vis Iran.
Although Israel is not a member of NATO and does not have a formal defense treaty with Washington that obliges it to come to its defense in case of attack, it has been designated by the US for decades as a “major non-NATO ally”.
Since the very creation of the State of Israel, the two countries have signed numerous defense cooperation agreements, through which the US has provided sophisticated weapons and military financing, which have made Israel the largest recipient of US foreign aid since World War II: more than 150,000 million dollars (about 134,000 million euros).
In fact, Israel is already the 18th largest military power in the world, despite ranking 149th in area and 93rd in population.
In addition, the spy agencies of both countries, the CIA and the Mossad, have created a close relationship and share intelligence. The Hebrew country benefits from more beneficial bilateral agreements than other allies. Although Washington normally forces the money to buy US-made weapons, Israel has the privilege of investing it in its own military industry.
The last major military aid package for Israel was approved in 2016, when Congress committed 38 billion dollars (about 34 billion euros) until 2028.
Israel and Western Sahara
This close relationship of first interest for both countries translates into diplomatic favors. The latest proof of this came this Monday, when the Moroccan royal cabinet reported that Netanyahu had sent a letter to King Mohamed VI to convey his new position regarding Western Sahara. In it, he affirmed that “the recognition of the Moroccan nature of that territory will be reflected in all acts and documents.”
In this way, the ultra-conservative Israeli government follows in the footsteps of former President Donald Trump, who already granted this recognition to Morocco in December 2020. And it is the consequence of the normalization of relations that Morocco and Israel signed then in a trilateral pact that included the endorsement of the United States in the conflict with the Polisario Front.
In the last three years, several senior Israeli diplomats and military officers have visited Morocco (Chief of the General Staff Aviv Kochavi did so in March) to symbolize improved relations between the two countries. The US is helping Israel to reduce tensions with its traditional Arab enemies, despite the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories and the abuses against this people.
Last March, a historic summit between the Israelis and the foreign ministers of countries such as Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates was held in the Negev desert (southern Israel), with the participation of the US as a sponsor of the so-called Abraham agreements. (by which those three countries recognized the State of Israel in the year 2020).
Despite the fact that Biden has expressed discomfort with the escalation of violence in Palestine, which is experiencing the biggest clashes since the Second Intifada (2000-2005), he continues to put the diplomatic relationship of 75 years of history before the sponsorship of human rights. The president, who frames his foreign policy and the war in Ukraine in a conflict between democracy and autocracy, continues to legitimize the State of Israel and its anti-democratic drift.