Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli President Herzog Before Their Meeting

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli President Herzog Before Their Meeting

PRESIDENT HERZOG:  Welcome, Mr. Secretary.  It’s wonderful to have you in our midst again.  You’re coming here during this conflict time again, and it’s a – just another example of the great friendship, the leadership of the United States of America in the region, in the world.  It’s an opportunity for me, on behalf of the people of Israel, to express gratitude and my heartfelt thanks to President Joe Biden for his great friendship and real, true, honest affection for the people of Israel, the state of Israel. 

We’ve seen it time and time again with his visits, with your visit – President Biden has been a longstanding friend of the state of Israel, cares for its security, and is following in the footsteps of giants such as President Harry Truman in understanding that the bond between Israel and the United States serves both nations and serves the national interests of the United States of America.  And I’m very grateful and honored to repeat our gratitude again. 

I think your visit comes at a very critical moment in the conflict.  We are yearning and praying for the immediate release of our hostages.  We want to see them back as soon as possible.  The situation is dire, and clearly Hamas is violating every rule of human behavior in this respect.  I also believe that as such, whilst we are not hearing or getting any information about our hostages, we are accommodating and facilitating humanitarian aid as part of our belief and our commitment to the rules of international humanitarian law.  Israel is committed to international humanitarian law. 

We do not have a war with the citizens of Gaza; we have a war with Hamas.  We’ve made it clear in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  We made it clear in all forums that are relevant to this question.  And as such, we, of course, condemn and reject any call for hurting or damaging any civilian population anywhere, let alone, of course, in this conflict. 

And finally, I do hope that there is a ray of hope also with the opportunity of moving towards normalization between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  I think it is a historic opportunity, and I hope – sincerely hope – that it will be looked at seriously and that this option may progress and advance in the near future.  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. 

I will also say a few comments in Hebrew. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much, Mr. President.  And as always, it’s good to be with you to benefit from your insights, just as people here benefit from your leadership.  And I’m always deeply appreciative of that.  For us as well, the hostages are foremost on our minds and in our hearts.  And as you know, we now have a response from Hamas to the proposal that was put on the table for a way forward.  We are looking at it intensely, as is, I know, the Government of Israel.  And there is a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work and hopefully being able to resume the release of hostages that was interrupted so many months ago. 

I also very much appreciate your emphasis on the imperative of protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.  There are so many innocent men, women, and children who are suffering as a result of the attacks perpetrated by Hamas and now being caught in a crossfire of Hamas’s making.  We all have an obligation to do everything possible to get the necessary assistance to those who so desperately need it.  And the steps that are being taken, additional steps that need to be taken are a focus of my own meetings here as well. 

Finally, I’ve come from a number of countries in the region, and I look forward to sharing with you what I’ve heard, including in Saudi Arabia, as well as in other places, in Egypt and Qatar.  And I do believe that there is a very positive, powerful future that is possible that genuinely integrates Israel into the region and addresses its most profound security needs to be able to live in peace and genuine security, and also answers the aspirations of the Palestinian people.  And you could see that equation very clearly, and it was only reinforced by my visits with our friends and partners in the region.  And I look forward to sharing that with you. 



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