“The U.S. and Israel share the same values,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the first congressional trip post-pandemic trip to Israel. Meeks spoke alongside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the U.S. Embassy for an Independence Day event where he explained that the two nations were not gathered “because of politics,” rather, “We’re here because of values. We share the same values, and that is an unbreakable bond.”
“There is no better place for that delegation to be than right here in Israel with you and your administration,” said Meeks, addressing Bennett on his choice for Israel as a first foreign destination.
In his pledges to Israel, Meeks assured his ally, “We are going to lock arm-in-arm with you, Mr. Prime Minister, to make sure that Iran doesn’t get its way,” adding, “We’ll make sure Hamas doesn’t get its way.”
One of the greatest accomplishments the two nations shared was the Abraham Accords under the Trump administration. Meeks spoke of these normalization deals signed between Israel and various Arab countries: “We’ll make sure that the historic moment that is upon us with the Abraham Accords, that we get more people to join and say, ‘Israel has a right to exist’ and we’re gonna work with them hand in hand.”
Meeks, who represents the 5th Congressional District based out of Queens, joked with the audience that they have visited his district on their travels to JFK Airport, but got serious with a personal notation. “For people of color, and people of the Jewish faith, we know what it feels like to have the world against you at times. We know what it feels like to be oppressed.” Meeks was the first African-American to be placed on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Meeks also wasted no time addressing the Prime Minister’s rise to the top. “When I look at the most diverse administration in the history of Israel, we are living in historic times.” Meeks concluded by stressing the relationship. “The friendship and bond with Israel is forever.”
Bennett’s parents, who are from San Francisco, were once involved in the civil right movement. The Bennett family has U.S. ties dating back to the Gold Rush of the 1850s. Bennett noted his childhood days on the West Coast and his early married life with his wife, Galit, on the East Coast in New York as he led a career in tech.
For his part, Bennett, without mentioning his predecessor’s name, worked to restore confidence in Israel aligning with Meek’s Democratic Party following four years under Trump’s Republican regime, but would not allow his country to be a testing agent. “I’ll challenge any attempt to make America a partisan political issue in Israel and any attempt to make Israel a partisan political issue in the United States. Our policy is bipartisan. We’re friends of everyone,” the prime minister said. “Because the friendship between our two democracies will always transcend party politics.”
Desiring to be looked at in a favorable light, Bennett noted how the two countries agree. “Israelis across the political spectrum are fundamentally pro-American. We like America. We appreciate, we admire what you’re doing out there, and that’s the way it ought to be, also in America vis-a-vis Israel. I stand committed to making the bond between us even stronger, by expanding our already strong strategic cooperation in the face of any threats to our people’s security, building even more robust economic and trade relationships,” expressed Bennett.
The pair was joined by U.S. Embassy in Israel Chargé d’Affaires Michael Ratney, who will soon be replaced by President Joe Biden’s nominee for the post, former State Department deputy secretary Thomas Nides, after a Senate hearing.
Ratney pointed out, “There have certainly been a lot of changes in Israel recently and also a lot of changes in Washington, but it’s reassuring to see that one of the constants is a rock-solid US-Israel partnership across nearly all sectors of our society. We know that you and your entire government will be great partners as we enter a period that inevitably brings both opportunities and risks.”
Rory Lancman commented on the visit on Twitter, writing that it was a “beautiful expression of support for the Jewish state and the USA-Israel alliance, and a moving tribute to longstanding Black-Jewish partnership for civil and human rights.”
The U.S. delegation included Democrats Ted Deutch, David Cicilline, Sara Jacobs, Kathy Manning, Abigail Spanberger, and Brad Schneider, and Republicans Andy Barr, French Hill, and Nicole Malliotakis.
By Shabsie Saphirstein