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Biden: 'If there was no Israel we'd have to invent one'

US President Biden says 'if there was no Israel we'd have to invent one'
3 min read
The US and Israeli presidents discussed developments in Ukraine and Iran's drone supply to Russia during a meeting at the White House
Herzog's (L) visit comes days ahead of Israel's fifth election in less than four years [Getty]

President Joe Biden hosted Israel's President Isaac Herzog at the White House on Wednesday, saying that if there was no Israel "we'd have to invent one".

Biden discussed the US' close ties with Israel and its controversial gas deal with Lebanon, which Washington helped strike, reaffirming Washington's "ironclad" support for Israel. 

"I'll say this 5,000 times in my career - the irontad (sic) - clad commitment the United States has to Israel based on our principles, our ideas, our values, they're the same values," he told Herzog.

"And I - I've often said, Mr. President, if there were - if there were not an Israel, we'd have to invent one."

The two presidents discussed the alleged growing threat to Ukraine from Russia's Iranian-supplied war drones, as Israel comes under pressure to help Kyiv.

Herzog told reporters at the White House after his talks that they "mainly" discussed Iran's nuclear program, the crushing of protesters demonstrating against strict Iranian religious laws, and the issue of Tehran's drone sales to Russia.

The weapons are "killing innocent Ukrainian citizens," Herzog said.

Israel has been reluctant to get involved in a US-led alliance helping pro-Western Ukraine to repel a bloody Russian invasion. It has been concerned though by Russia's use of Iranian drones in the war, a country it sees as a key threat to its regional hegemony.

But Herzog's trip to Washington underlined Israeli concern at the growing role of Iran in the conflict, with Tehran accused of supplying fleets of deadly drones used by Russia against Ukrainian civilian targets.

On Tuesday Herzog met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and announced he was sharing intelligence to prove that Iran has been supplying military drones to the Russians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed this Wednesday, saying "this is a positive trend in relations with Israel.... After a long pause, I see us moving forward."

Biden and Herzog also discussed Iran's ongoing tussle with the international community over its nuclear program, which it insists has only civilian goals. Israel opposes a push by the Biden administration to salvage a deal that would reinstate international inspections in Iran in exchange for sanctions relief.

Sitting alongside Herzog in the White House Oval Office, Biden praised Israel for reaching a long-delayed accord with Lebanon on their sea border. The deal was brokered by the United States.

Biden hailed the "historic breakthrough."

"It took a lot of courage for you to step up and step into it," he told Herzog. "It took some real guts. It took principled and persistent diplomacy to get it done."

Biden said the newly agreed border would allow both countries to develop energy fields, and it would "create new hope and economic opportunities."

Herzog indicated that Biden would be attending the COP27 climate summit in Egypt next month - something not yet confirmed by the White House - and said the climate crisis "can serve as a common denominator for so many nations."

Herzog's visit comes days ahead of Israel's fifth election in less than four years. Hawkish ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had tense relations with Democratic US administrations, is seeking a comeback.

It also comes less than two weeks before Americans vote in the midterm elections that are predicted to strip Biden's Democrats of their control of Congress.

"We have elections in Israel and you're having midterm elections in the United States but one thing is clear - I think this visit epitomises that our friendship, our strong bond transcends all political differences," Herzog told Biden.