'Allowing Iran to become a nuclear threshold state is unacceptable,' Herzog says in historic U.S. Congress address

A day after meeting Biden at the White House, Israeli leader speaks before U.S. lawmakers 35 years after his father, President Chaim Herzog; 'when Israel is strong, the United States is more secure'

President Isaac Herzog takes the podium to address a joint session of the United States Congress on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, 35 years after his father, President Chaim Herzog, became the first Israeli leader to deliver a speech before the same audience. Ynetnews carried President Herzog's remarks live.
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Herzog addressed the threat of the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran's ongoing efforts to destabilize the Middle East through its proxies.
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יצחק הרצוג
יצחק הרצוג
Herzog addresses U.S. Congress on occasion of Israel's 75th anniversary
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY)
"Let there be no doubt: Iran does not strive to attain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran is building nuclear capabilities, that pose a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond. Every country or region controlled or infiltrated by Iran has experienced utter havoc. We have seen this in Yemen, Gaza, in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. In fact, we have seen this in Iran itself where the regime has lost its people and is suppressing them brutally," he said.
"Iran has spread hatred, terror and suffering throughout the Middle East and beyond, adding fuel to the disastrous fire and suffering in Ukraine. Iran is the only nation on the planet publicly calling, plotting, and developing means to annihilate another nation, a member of the family of nations, the State of Israel.
"Israel has no border with Iran. Israel has no resources contested by Iran. Israel has no conflict with the Iranian people. And yet, the Iranian regime – together with its proxies throughout the Middle East – is aiming and working towards destroying the State of Israel, killing the Jews and challenging the entire free world.
"Allowing Iran to become a nuclear threshold state – whether by omission or by diplomatic commission – is unacceptable. The world cannot remain indifferent to the Iranian regime’s call to wipe Israel off the map. Tolerating this call and Iran’s measures to realize it, is an inexcusable moral collapse. Backed by the free world, Israel and the United States must act forcefully together to prevent Iran’s fundamental threat to international security. I am here to reiterate what every Israeli leader has declared for decades: the State of Israel is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities."
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יצחק הרצוג
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Herzog shakes hands with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
(Photo: AP /J. Scott Applewhite)
Herzog's speech comes amid growing strain in ties between Jerusalem and Washington in recent months due to inflammatory statements and actions by far-right members of the Israeli Cabinet as well as tension around the government's controversial push to overhaul the judiciary.
"At our core, both our peoples seek to repair the cracks in our world. Having said this, I am well aware that our world is changing. A new generation of Israelis and Americans are assuming leadership roles. A generation that was not privy to the hardship of Israel’s formative years. A generation that is less engaged in the roots that connect our peoples. A generation that, perhaps, takes for granted the U.S.-Israel relationship," he said.
"Yet, at this moment I choose optimism. Because to me it is clear that the shift in generations does not reflect changing values. Nor does it indicate changes in our interests. When the United States is strong, Israel is stronger. And when Israel is strong, the United States is more secure."
Herzog also praised Washington's efforts down the years to broker peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors after decades of bloodshed and hostilities, and more recent successes such as the Abraham Accords.
"[T] here is no question that the peace which the United States brokered between Israel and its neighbors, has revolutionized the Middle East. The historic peace treaties with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have demonstrated the many blessings of opting out of the cycle of war. Both Jordan and Egypt have contributed tremendously to solidifying the precious peace and enhancing our region’s stability and wellbeing," he said.
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Herzog receives a standing ovation from U.S. lawmakers during his speech before Congress
(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
"Three years ago, the Abraham Accords realigned our imaginations and our region. Israel eagerly welcomed the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Kingdom of Morocco into an exclusive, warm peace between our peoples. Since signing the accords, over one million Israelis have visited the Abraham Nations – a clear expression of our will to become integrated in the region.
"This is a peace anchored in trust, hope and prosperity. A true game changer. Each of these historic agreements, which have altered the trajectory of the Middle East, was facilitated by our greatest friend the United States of America."
Herzog also expressed his hope that the circle of peace is further expanded, citing Washington's ongoing efforts to achieve a breakthrough in normalization efforts with Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians.
"Israel’s hand is extended, and our heart is open, to any partner in peace – near or far. Israel thanks the United States for working towards establishing peaceful relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a leading nation in the region and in the Muslim world. We pray for this moment to come. This would be a huge sea change in the course of history in the Middle East and the world at large," he said.
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יצחק הרצוג
יצחק הרצוג
(Photo: Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
"My deep yearning, Mr. Speaker, is for Israel to one day make peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Over the years, Israel has taken bold steps towards peace and made far-reaching proposals to our Palestinian neighbors. Notwithstanding the deep political differences, and the numerous challenges that surround Israeli-Palestinian relations – and I do not ignore them -but it should be clear that one cannot talk about peace while condoning or legitimizing terror, implicitly or explicitly. True peace cannot be anchored in violence.
"Palestinian terror against Israel or Israelis undermines any possibility of a future of peace between our peoples. Israelis are targeted while waiting for buses, while taking a stroll on the promenade, while spending time with their family. At the same time, successful terror attacks are celebrated, terrorists are glorified, and their families are financially rewarded for every Israeli they attack. This is inconceivable. It is a moral disgrace. Terror is not a bump in the road. Terror is hatred and bloodshed. It contradicts humanity’s most basic principles of peace. Israel cannot and will not tolerate terror, and we know that in this we are joined by the United States of America.
The younger generation of Israelis and Palestinians deserve better. They are all worthy of a future to look towards, a future of peace and prosperity. A future of hope. I am wholeheartedly committed to this vision, a vision of hope and peace, true peace, without any terror."
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