(Washington) US President Joe Biden will receive Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday for talks on combating Iran’s nuclear program and building support for Israel.
Posted on Aug 26, 2021 at 9:52 am
Daniella CHESLOW Agence France-Presse
The trip will be an opportunity for the two men to assess each other after Mr. Bennett takes office in June.
“Getting to know” without journalists
“This will be their first face-to-face meeting,” and it will be “really getting to know each other,” a senior Biden government official told reporters. No press conference is planned after the meeting in the Oval Office between the two heads of state and government.
Bennett, 49, was brought to power to replace Benyamin Netanyahu with an ideologically divided coalition in which his militant on-call party only has a handful of seats.
“There is a new government in the United States and a new government in Israel, and I bring a new spirit of cooperation from Jerusalem,” said Naftali Bennett.
Prior to his first official overseas tour as Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett told reporters that Joe Biden was “an old and true friend of the State of Israel.”
For Dan Kurtzer, the former US Ambassador to Israel, the Prime Minister’s visit after the 12th anniversary of the Netanyahu era will set a new tone for US-Israel relations.
“Netanyahu was convinced that he knew better than the president, with whom he was dealing,” said Dan Kurtzer of the AFP news agency.
In the case of Mr Bennett, on the other hand, “even if there are and will be differences about the policy to be followed, the two will be able to exchange views without this disrespect,” argued the former ambassador.
Naftali Bennett has already claimed that Iran will be the main subject of his visit. The United States is currently trying to reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Since that decision, Iran has failed to meet certain key commitments, including uranium enrichment.
“The Prime Minister thinks the return to the Iranian nuclear deal […] is a mistake, ”a senior Israeli official told reporters, arguing that the deal failed to contain“ Iran’s regional aggression ”.
Naftali Bennett said he would submit a “methodological plan” to Joe Biden.
During his visit to the US capital on Wednesday, Bennett met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The US commitment to Israel’s security is still “unshakable,” Blinken told the Israeli Prime Minister.
Aides to Mr Bennett also said the Prime Minister did not intend to consider resuming discussions on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
The subject “two states is irrelevant (it does not exist),” a senior official told reporters.
Joe Biden’s administration supports a two-state solution and has restored hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, most of which was cut by Donald Trump.
For Shibley Telhami, Professor of Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, going to Washington to meet President Biden gives Mr. Bennett legitimacy.
Biden’s support for the Prime Minister contrasts with growing criticism of Israel from progressive Democrats in Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
However, the president has defied calls by a number of Democrats elected for tighter restrictions on aid to Israel and has focused on other issues such as the pandemic and Afghanistan.
“The idea that this is not a priority is protecting Bennett,” Telhami said.