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Biden and Israeli president Herzog celebrate Irish roots

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Joe Biden and Israeli president Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem

Joe Biden and Israeli president Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem

AP

Joe Biden and Israeli president Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem

Joe Biden has hailed his Irish roots in a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog, whose father was born in Belfast.

The US president arrived in Israel on Wednesday to hold talks with leaders on his first trip to the Middle East since taking office last year.

He also met with Palestinian politicians in the occupied West Bank ahead of talks with Saudi leaders and other Gulf allies in Jeddah today.

“My background is Irish American, and we have a long history not fundamentally unlike the Palestinian people with Great Britain and their attitude toward Irish Catholics for 400 years,” Mr Biden said during a speech on Thursday. 

“When I was a senator, my colleagues used to joke that I was always quoting Irish poets on the Senate floor.

“They thought I did it because I’m Irish. That’s not the reason I did it. I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.” 

Mr Biden also referenced his heritage in an entry in the guestbook in the presidential residence in Jerusalem. It read: “From our shared Irish roots to our shared love of Israel, we are united in heart and spirit. May our friendship endure and continue to grow. That is the Irish of it, as my grandfather Finnegan would say.”

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Mr Herzog also spoke fondly of his ancestry, describing his encounter with Mr Biden as “a great day for the Irish”.

Mr Herzog’s father, the 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 the rabbi of Dublin after the declaration of independence.

President Herzog bestowed the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor upon the US leader in recognition of his support for the country.

“I can say without hesitation that being known as a friend of Israel and receiving this award is among the greatest honours of my career,” Mr Biden said.

The US president added he would not avoid talking about human rights violations and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi during his visit to Saudi Arabia.


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