Joe Biden has touted his Irish roots in a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose father was born in Belfast.
The US president is in the Middle East for the first time since taking office in early 2021 and arrived in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Israeli leaders.
He has also met with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank ahead of talks with Saudi leaders and other Gulf allies in Jeddah on Saturday.
“I – my background and my family’s background are Irish American and we have a long history of – not fundamentally different from the Palestinian people with Britain and their attitude towards Irish Catholics over the years, for 400 years,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Friday.
“But when I was a US Senator, my colleagues used to joke that I always quoted Irish poets when I sat in the Senate.
“And they thought I did it because I’m Irish. That’s not why I did it; I did it because they are the best poets in the world.
He then quoted from Seamus Heaney’s poem “The Cure at Troy,” which he described as “classically Irish, but it could also apply to Palestinians,” to make it clear that hope is everlasting.
Mr. Biden also referenced his legacy when he wrote an entry in the guest book of the presidential residence in Jerusalem upon arrival.
“From our shared Irish roots to our shared love for Israel, we are united in heart and spirit,” it said.
“May our friendship endure and continue to grow! That’s the Irish of it, as my grandfather Finnegan would say. God bless you Joe.”
Mr Herzog also spoke fondly of his own Irish heritage, describing the encounter as “a great day for the Irish”.
Isaac Herzog’s father, former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, grew up in Dublin where he became Ireland’s bantamweight boxing champion.
His grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, was Rabbi of Dublin after the Irish Declaration of Independence.
President Herzog presented the US leader with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor at a ceremony in Jerusalem on July 14 in recognition of his 50 years of support for the country as a politician.
“I have no hesitation in saying that being known as a friend of Israel and receiving this award today is one of the greatest honors of my career,” Biden said.
Mr Biden said on Friday he had told Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman he blamed him for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi as they held talks to restore ties with the key Arab ally.
Biden said after meetings with Saudi Arabia’s top leaders the crown prince, known as MbS, has denied involvement and said he has held those responsible accountable.
Biden shared a fist bump with MbS and shook hands with King Salman after arriving in Saudi Arabia.
“Regarding the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the head of the meeting and made it clear what I thought about it then and what I think about it now,” Biden told reporters.
“I have discussed this openly and directly. I have made my opinion crystal clear. I have said very bluntly that it is irreconcilable for an American President to remain silent on a human rights issue, who we are and who I am.”
US intelligence says the crown prince directly authorized the assassination by Saudi agents of Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic. Biden said what happened to Khashoggi was outrageous.
“He basically said he wasn’t personally responsible for it,” Biden said of the crown prince’s response during their meeting. “I hinted that I thought he was.”
The President said they had also discussed energy and that he expects “further steps” from Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, on energy in the coming weeks.
As a presidential candidate, Biden had said the kingdom should be made a “pariah” on the world stage for the murder. He said Friday he had no regrets about the comment.
Energy and security concerns prompted Biden and his aides not to isolate the Gulf giant, which has strengthened ties with Russia and China.
The President’s interaction with the Crown Prince drew criticism at home – starting with the fist bump.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/joe-biden-compares-great-britains-historic-attitude-towards-irish-catholics-to-plight-of-palestinians-41844030.html Joe Biden compares Britain’s historic “attitude” towards Irish Catholics to the plight of the Palestinians