U.S. President Joe Biden hosted his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog at the White House on Tuesday for the second such sit-down in the past year.
Biden touted the "simply unbreakable" bilateral relationship shared by the countries in brief remarks made before the leaders went behind closed doors.
"Welcome back - pleasure to have you here," Biden told Herzog in the Oval Office.
Herzog said he is bringing "a message of greeting and gratitude from the people of Isarel, the entire country of Israel, from all sides of the political spectrum."
Herzog, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday, will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Tuesday afternoon and will deliver a joint address to Congress on Wednesday morning.
The speech will be boycotted by progressive Democrats, including prominent lawmakers Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American female lawmaker in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. The decision to protest the Israeli president's speech come amid growing rifts among Democrats over maintaining the U.S.'s unwavering support for Israel.
The White House announced Monday that Biden and Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to have a one-on-one meeting before the end of the year. The details are still being worked out, but Netanyahu has long sought a White House sit-down with Biden.
In March, Biden said he would not sit down with the Israeli leader "in the near term" due to a judicial overhaul plan Netanyahu is pursuing that critics say will destroy Israel's system of checks and balances.
Tensions with the U.S. have also been exacerbated by the Israeli government's decision to significantly expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law, and which the U.S. has maintained are a barrier to efforts to achieve an elusive Two-State Solution to the conflict. Statements from far-right members in Netanyahu's Cabinet has also led to repeated rows.
Kirby said Biden's decision to meet with Netanyahu does not mean "that we have less concerns over these judicial reforms or over less concerns over some of the extremist activities and behavior by some members of the Netanyahu Cabinet."
"Those concerns are still valid. They're disturbing," he said.