Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with a Democratic Congressional delegation led by United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi at his official office in Jerusalem today.
By Erin Viner
“Nancy, thank you for initiating this visit. I’ve heard wonderful feedback from everyone who has met you. I want to personally thank you for your ongoing support for Israel. We have a beautiful country here, pretty tough place, but with beautiful people. You’ve stood up for Israel,” said the Israeli leader.
Referencing the California Congresswoman’s father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who served as a Maryland Congressman and Baltimore Mayor, Bennett went on to say, “Your dad, may he rest in peace, stood up for the Jews in our darkest hour of history when it wasn’t easy to stand up for Jews.”
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Bennett “stressed the warm ties between Israel and the US and the importance of bipartisan support for Israel.” He also thanked Speaker Pelosi for her support in advancing US funding for the Iron Dome Anti-Missile Defense System.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting were the main strategic challenges facing the State of Israel, especially the Iranian nuclear issue, added the statement.
The US Congressional delegation included Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Bill Keating, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Andy Kim.
Their first stop after arriving in Israel yesterday was at the Knesset, where Speaker Pelosi said that US support of Israel remains “ironclad.”
“I’ll keep using that word, in our support of Israel’s security and its regional stability,” she underscored.
“We are together in the fight against terrorism posed by Iran, both in the region and also its nuclear development,” she vowed, saying that “The nuclear threat of Iran is a global one, it’s a threat to the world; Israel’s proximity to Iran is a concern to all of us, a responsibility for all of us.”
Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy sitting in the visitor’s gallery during Pelosi’s special address to the plenum.
“Our nations enjoy a unique friendship based on democratic values and freedoms. The State of Israel recognizes and values your uncompromising efforts to ensure its security and we could not have asked for a better friend than you. Passing the bill to fund the replenishment of interceptors for the Iron Dome Anti-Missile Defense System will forever be associated with you, and forever as one of the greatest displays of support by the American people and by the United States House of Representatives in the State of Israel,” said Speaker Levy during his speech.
Referencing the 6 January 2021 assault in Washington, D.C., he added, “We shockingly watched together in the difficult images of masses violently storming the Capitol. This was a warning sign to all liberal democracies of the real danger of fake news and conspiracy theories. If it happened in the United States – it can happen anywhere. The Knesset stands with you in the defense of democracy and the liberal values we all hold so dear to our hearts.”
Speaker Levy concluded by introducing 100 schoolchildren from towns and villages bordering the Gaza Strip were also in the gallery waving Israeli and American flags in a moving gesture of gratitude for Speaker Pelosi’s support to fund Iron Dome interceptors.
“With us are children from southern Israel who are here thanks to the Iron Dome Anti-Missile Defense System. You have chosen to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens, you have chosen to stand by the only democracy in the Middle East and you have chosen to assist Israel to save lives including the lives of every boy and girl who are with us in the plenum today,” he said.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz subsequently met with the visiting-US lawmakers, where he emphasized the unique and strategic bond between the United States and Israel, and thanked Speaker Pelosi for her steadfast support for the security of the State of Israel.
Minister Gantz discussed the “most pressing security challenges that Israel faces, starting with Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its regional aggression” while emphasizing “the critical need for Israel’s security superiority in order to seek peace with its neighbors,” said a statement from the Ministry of Defense.
He also stressed the importance of expanding and deepening normalization and peace agreements in the region, and underscored his commitment to continue working with the Palestinian Authority.
The US Congressional delegation was later hosted for lunch by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who said “are really overjoyed that you are here in Israel and we are grateful to you for your friendship, which represents so much in the unique relationship between Israel and the United States, an unbreakable bond.”
Also in attendance was Ofra Fuchs, widow of the late Israeli poet Ehud Manor, whose words Speaker Pelosi cited in her speech on the floor of the Congress after the Capitol Hill attack.
President Herzog revealed that he had shared the poem with Speaker Pelosi in 2016, including the words:
“I can’t keep silent in light of how my country has changed her face
I won’t stop trying to remind her
In her ears I’ll sing my cries
Until she opens her eyes.”
“Then, following the very painful event on January 6, 2021, at Capitol Hill, Speaker Pelosi made an historic speech and she opened her remarks – which were very short but extremely strong – with a quote from the famous Israeli poet Ehud Manor: ‘I can’t keep silent in light of how my country has changed her face.’ And there was an incredible tremor in our country,” said President Herzog, according to a statement from his office, adding his belief that it was “a privilege and a tribute to the beautiful power of words and poetry.”
The President concluded his remarks by quoting another, more optimistic poem by Ehud Manor, “To Follow Captive in Your Footsteps:
“To follow captive in your footsteps
to inhale your searing sun
to dream beneath the heavens
to be in your pain
then fall in love again.”
Explaining that the poem could be interpreted as referencing a “spouse, partner, country, or land or everybody,” President Herzog said that in his view the words are a tribute of the “endless love” in Israel’s “relationship with the United States”
After thanking the Israeli leader for the festive occasion, Speaker Pelosi said “Thank you for the set of guests you have invited. Thank you so much for honoring us with your presence. It really is true, and we’ve discussed this, that the arts bring us together. Somehow there is a way, where the inspiration and shared values enable us to forget some of our differences. To the beautiful friendship between our countries. God bless Israel, God bless America.”