President Joe Biden invited President Yitzhak Herzog to a meeting at the White House, N12 reported Tuesday night. That the official invitation will go out in the coming days, but it appears that Herzog will come to America in the third week of July, speak before a joint session of Congress to mark Israel’s 75th anniversary, and then come for tea in the Oval Office.
The White House has issued a clarification, saying that during his visit to the US last year, President Herzog was invited by the House of Representatives to speak at the joint session. And the White House is working on coordinating the visit.
This is not good news for Israel, even if you’re a left-winger. It suggests that the White House is investing an extraordinary amount of time and effort in pushing away Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and getting precariously close to undermining his legitimacy.
In late March, one day after US Ambassador Tom Nides reassured Israel’s Army Radio that an invitation of Netanyahu to the White House was happening shortly, President Biden told a reporter emphatically: “Netanyahu won’t be invited to the White House in the near term.”
Biden: “Like many strong supporters of Israel I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. Netanyahu won’t be invited to the White House in the near term” pic.twitter.com/YeuH6QbT3c
— Yosef Yisrael (@yosefyisrael25) March 28, 2023
It stung. On June 9, Sky News broadcast a long and confrontational interview with Netanyahu, during which he was asked about being banned from the White House, and responded that he thinks Joe Biden is a great friend of Israel, and that he is the president of the United States of America, and we work with him as we work with other presidents, and we trust the choices the US makes, and the alliance between the US and Israel has never been stronger.
And that made it sing even more. Like the old lady asked: if you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich? If Israel and the US are such great friends, how come the Americans declared they won’t invite you, personally?
And that’s why President Herzog’s scheduled visit is so bad for Israel. Not only does it make Netanyahu look even more left out in all this celebration of friendship, but it is starting to be used as leverage against the policies of his right-wing government.
Just this week, Netanyahu nixed an important session of the Civil Administration on construction in E1, the area separating Maale Adumim from Jerusalem. If E1 is populated by Israelis, there will never be a contiguous Palestinian State. E1 cuts Judea and Samaria in the middle. Likewise, if E1 is Arab, Israel’s chances of preventing a Palestinian State diminish considerably. This is why the PA erected this fake settlement of Khan al-Ahmar – its future literally depends on it.
From now on, every move in Judea and Samaria is going to be colored by Netanyahu’s growing obsession to be invited to the White House. You must have read the reports about the 4,000 new housing units planned for Judea and Samaria. Fuggedaboutit. It’s not happening. Not as long as Obama’s gang of progressives rule the White House. They’ll keep dangling the visit as if Bibi were Moses eager to set foot in the promised land.
When Sky News pushed the painful point even more, because they, too, can recognize anguish when they see it, Bibi reassured them that the visit will happen, and urged them to listen to what the president and his secretary of state and NSA Jake Sullivan have been saying about the alliance between the two countries that cannot be dissolved. And it’s true – but without Prime Minister Netanyahu.
On Tuesday, State Dept. Spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about the new housing starts, which the reporter called “4,000 settlements.” He answered, as usual, that “advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution.” But then he added, when asked what the US was planning to do about it: “We will continue to make concerns that we have known publicly. We’ll continue to make them privately.” And when the reporter expressed some doubt about the effectiveness of this approach, Miller said: “I actually think what the United States says matters. I think what we say from these podiums matters.”
It does matter, and the current administration will not give an inch: if Netanyahu wishes to be invited, he must abandon the settlement enterprise, as well as the judicial reform. Otherwise, they’ll keep inviting Herzog, and Yair Lapid, and Benny Gantz – to humiliate Netanyahu ever further until he cries, uncle.