The Jerusalem Post
Bennett: I won’t let Israel become a partisan political issue in the US
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has promised to battle attempts to transform US-Israeli bipartisan ties into partisan ones, when he addressed an American Independence Day event on Tuesday.
“I will challenge any attempt to make America a partisan political issue in Israel and any attempt to make Israel a partisan political issue in the US,” Bennett said as he spoke at the US Embassy’s annual July 4th event.
Bennett was sworn into office only last month and his brief speech on a makeshift stage at the embassy marked his first address to a US audience since he became prime minister.
His predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, was often accused of harming bipartisan ties with the US, particularly given his close ties with former US president Donald Trump.
While in office Trump famously accused Jews who supported the Democratic Party of being disloyal to the Jewish people and Israel.
Bennett on Tuesday clarified that he opposed partisan talk when it came to Israeli-US ties.
“Our policy is bipartisan. We are friends of everyone. The friendship between our two democracies will always transcend party politics,” Bennett said.
His words come as acrimony toward Israel has grown in the Democratic Party.
“Israelis across the political spectrum are fundamentally pro-American. We like America. We appreciate and we admire what you are doing out there,” Bennett said.
“That is the way it ought to be in America vis-à-vis Israel,” Bennett said.
He had warm words for US President Joe Biden, who he is expected to meet soon in Washington.
Biden “will be an amazing partner. Biden has always proven not only his commitment to the American-Israeli alliance but his true love to the Jewish people, you can’t miss it and we appreciate it,” Bennett said.
“We are going to work together. We are going to work with the new administration to upgrade our friendship and partnership,” Bennett said.
He mentioned his strong ties to the United States, particularly given that his parents were born and raised in San Francisco and that his family had roots in the country that went back to the 1850s. They came to California during the Gold Rush, Bennett said.
In speaking of his father, Jim, he recalled that he had been arrested by San Francisco Police at a hotel sit-in to protest the venue’s failure to hire African-Americans.
“I was always proud of my dad for fighting for his principles,” Bennett said.
He touted the democratic nature of his new government, which he said was the most diverse in Israel’s history.
“We have eight different parties, Left and Right, Jews and Arabs,” said Bennett.
“Change is in the air and it’s looking good,” Bennett said.
He was followed on the stage by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who is in Israel this week leading a bipartisan congressional delegation.
Meeks had strong words of support for Bennett, Israel and American Jews.
“We are going to lock armin-arm with you Mr. Prime Minister to make sure that Iran doesn’t get its way,” Meeks said.
He issued the same statement about Hamas and called for the expansion of the Abraham Accords so that Arab nations would recognize Israel’s right to exist.
The US-Israel friendship and bond is forever, said Meeks.
“Those who call for Israel’s demise will see that it is justice and values and democracy that will long survive them and we will make sure that they are no longer in the way of a strong Jewish state,” he said.
The gray-haired politician also spoke of his personal connection to the Jewish people when he recalled that he was the first African-American to be a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I would not be standing here today if it was not for my Jewish brothers and sisters standing alongside and working with Dr. Martin Luther King to make America a better place, to turn it around and say we are going stand for what is right,” Meeks said.
“If it wasn’t for my Jewish brothers and sisters with thoughts and ideas and the values that they have, I would not be standing here today as a member of the House of Representatives. I owe a deep debt of gratitude and thanks to my Jewish friends here in Israel and all around the world,” he explained.
“For people of color and people of the Jewish faith we know what it feels like to have the world against you at times,” Meeks said. “We know what it feels like to be oppressed and, so, who better to come together.”