By Philissa Cramer
(JTA) — New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman has announced that he will join his colleague Ilhan Omar in skipping next week’s address by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Congress.
Bowman’s office told Haaretz that the progressive Democrat would not attend Herzog’s address.
“I don’t think Israel has gone far enough in protecting and uplifting Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives,” a reporter for the Epoch Times, a right-wing anti-China newspaper, said Bowman told him; the reporter tweeted that several other progressive Democrats had declined to say whether they would attend the speech.
Omar’s boycott pledge preceded the official announcement from the White House that President Joe Biden would meet with Herzog while the Israeli president is in Washington. During the visit next Tuesday, Biden will “reaffirm the ironclad commitment of the United States to Israel’s security” in addition to discussing Israel’s ties with its Arab neighbors and the ongoing danger of Iran, according to the White House’s announcement Thursday afternoon.
The announcement also hints at two of the biggest wedges between the United States and Israel right now, as Israel’s right-wing government advances legislation to weaken the country’s judiciary. “President Biden will stress the importance of our shared democratic values, and discuss ways to advance equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis,” the announcement says.
Herzog’s visit is a symbol of the troubled waters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made no secret of his desire to be invited to Washington, but Biden has said that he is concerned about the judiciary changes and is not planning to invite Netanyahu anytime soon. Herzog’s role is ostensibly nonpartisan, though he has criticized the judiciary proposals, saying that they could spark “a civil war,” and sought to broker a compromise.