Israeli President Isaac Herzog told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday he welcomed criticism, especially from American friends, but said it must not cross the line into negation of Israel’s right to exist. That, he said, was antisemitism.
Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, spoke to a chamber packed with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, despite the absence of a handful of progressive Democrats who announced they would boycott over issues including the treatment of Palestinians by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Herzog spoke a day after a White House meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at which the two leaders stressed their countries’ close ties despite tensions with Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
“I’m not oblivious to criticism among friends, including some expressed by respected members of this House. I respect criticism, especially from friends, although one does not always have to accept it,” Herzog told the joint meeting in a speech greeted with several standing ovations.
“But criticism of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the state of Israel’s right to exist. Questioning the Jewish people’s right to self-determination is not legitimate diplomacy, it is antisemitism.”