Israeli President Isaac Herzog (C) addresses a joint meeting of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy listen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on July 19, 2023. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
July 19 (UPI) -- Israeli President Issac Herzog addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, receiving a warm welcome peppered with applause and standing ovations.
Delivering the address at the Capitol, Herzog said the U.S.-Israeli bond is "unbreakable."
"Israel and the U.S. will disagree on many matters," Herzog said. "But we will always remain family. Our bond may be challenged at times. But is absolutely unbreakable."
U.S.-Israel relations have cooled as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hard-right members of his administration have sought to overhaul Israel's judiciary. Opponents of the proposal call it a threat to democracy.
Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on Monday and Netanyahu said they agreed to meet later in person.
Herzog told Congress the judiciary proposal is an effort to rebalance Israel's institutional powers. In a nod to Biden's request that Israel work toward consensus on the changes, Herzog said he is doing all he can to help.
Israel's democratic tradition has always been based on a strong and independent judiciary, he said.
"I have great confidence in Israeli democracy," Herzog said. " I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA."
Herzog called the United States Israel's greatest friend and said both stand for "the same values of equality, liberty and freedom." He thanked the United States for its enduring partnership.
The Israeli president said his country is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.
He said his "deep yearning" is "for Israel one day to make peace with our Palestinian neighbors." But he also accused the Palestinians of terrorism.
"It should be clear that one cannot talk about peace while condoning and legitimizing terrorism. True peace cannot be anchored in violence," Herzog said. "Israel cannot and will not tolerate terror and in this we know we are joined by the United States of America."
Herzog said he is wholeheartedly committed to a vision of peace with Palestinians without any terror.
Amid multiple, serious global challenges, he is optimistic about the future and said it is time to design the next stage of the U.S.-Israeli partnership.
The address comes after the House on Tuesday passed a resolution affirming U.S. support for Israel after Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called Israel a "racist" state."
Referring to her criticism without mentioning her name, Herzog said he "respects criticism from friends, although one does not always have to accept it."
He commended Biden for laying out the first national strategy to combat anti-Semitism.
As Herzog hailed Israel's diversity and LGBTQ rights, including large Pride parades there, Democrats responded with a standing ovation, while many Republicans remained seated.
Herzog said the Israeli-U.S. relationship is irreplaceable.
"When Israel is strong, the United States is more secure," Herzog said.
His address came as Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary.
"Let us base our next 75 years on shared hope," Herzog said.