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Herzog invited to address US Congress, 1st Israeli to get honor since Netanyahu

President receives invite from speaker, majority leader while in DC; date for speech not set, but will likely take place in 2023, when Israel celebrates 75 years of independence

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, right, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, talk to reporters October 25, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Mariam Zuhaib)
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, right, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, talk to reporters October 25, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/Mariam Zuhaib)

President Isaac Herzog was invited Tuesday to address a joint meeting of the US Congress to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding, which congressional leaders called a “historic and joyous milestone.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued the invitation to Herzog in a joint letter in which they said the two nations share “an unbreakable bond rooted in common security, shared values, and friendship.”

The date for Herzog’s address has not been set. The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, and US president Harry Truman recognized the new nation the same day.

In their letter, Pelosi and Schumer said Truman’s swift action “has always been a point of pride for our country.”

“Across the decades, the United States Congress has been proud to stand in solidarity with Israel on a bipartisan and bicameral basis,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote. “It is our hope that the Congress will have the opportunity to hear from you at this historic and joyous milestone in the success of the State of Israel and the US-Israel alliance.”

The last Israeli leader to give such an address in the US Congress was former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His 2015 speech was marred by controversy as it was arranged behind the back of then-US president Barack Obama and featured the Israeli premier lobbying US lawmakers to oppose the president’s effort to sign a nuclear deal with Iran. The speech was boycotted by a large number of Democratic Congress members and is often cited as a watershed moment in the long-held Israeli effort to maintain a bipartisan relationship with the United States.

Herzog began a two-day visit to Washington on Tuesday, meeting with Pelosi and with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and energy envoy Amos Hochstein, who negotiated the recent maritime deal between Israel and Lebanon. He is scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday before returning home.

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