Courtesy of JNS Photo credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II via Wikimedia Commons
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby speaks at a press briefing on the Afghanistan withdrawal at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 16, 2021.

 (March 23, 2023 / JNS)

The United States remains a steadfast ally and “deep friend” of Israel despite the countries sometimes not seeing eye to eye, U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said on Wednesday.

Kirby was responding to a reporter who asked him to describe the overall state of U.S.-Israel relations, on the backdrop of several recent incidents of discord.

Kirby noted that during their phone conversation on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden made clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his “support for Israel’s security will remain ironclad. Nothing is going to change about that. And [Biden] has, through his entire public life, been one of Israel’s strongest supporters and friends.

“Now,” Kirby continued, “he has also said—and he’s communicated it publicly and, of course, he’s communicated privately—our concerns over these proposals, these proposed judicial reforms. And he has said and he said it again over the weekend that we—that we urge Israeli leaders to seek a compromise as soon as possible.”

Kirby’s comments came a day after Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog was summoned to the U.S. State Department for a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, who “conveyed concern” regarding the Knesset’s partial repeal of the 2005 Disengagement Implementation Law.

The two “discussed the importance of all parties refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover, and Easter holiday,” according to the State Department.

The Israeli parliament on Tuesday voted to repeal articles of the 2005 law banning Israelis from entering and residing in parts of northern Samaria. The so-called disengagement law also led to the destruction and evacuation of twenty-one communities in the Gaza Strip.

For his part, Netanyahu hailed the move to partially roll back the “discriminatory and humiliating” law that expelled Jews from their “historical homeland.”

The United States on Tuesday also condemned as “offensive” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s denial earlier this week of the existence of a Palestinian people.

“We found those comments to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.

Speaking in Paris on Sunday at a tribute to the late Likud activist Jacques Kupfer, Smotrich said, “Jacques’ truth must be told with all our might and without confusion: He said there is no such thing as Palestinians—because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

Smotrich continued: “We need to tell the truth without bowing to the lies and distortions of history, and without succumbing to the hypocrisy of BDS and the pro-Palestinian organizations.”

Despite such incidents, Kirby stressed on Wednesday that, “Israel remains a strong ally and a deep, deep friend in the region, I’d say even around the world.”