Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took office in June to replace Benjamin Netanyahu, will be received by US President Joe Biden on Thursday. Discussions are expected to revolve primarily around tackling Iran’s nuclear program and strengthening US support for Israel.
US President Joe Biden receives Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday August 26 for discussions focused on the fight against Iran’s nuclear program and strengthening support for Israel.
The trip will be an opportunity for the two men to gauge each other after the taking office in June of the new Prime Minister of the Hebrew state.
“This will be their first face-to-face meeting” and it will be about “really getting to know each other,” a senior official in the Biden administration told reporters.
Naftali Bennett, 49, was brought to power to replace Benjamin Netanyahu with an ideologically divided coalition in which his hawkish reputation party holds only a handful of seats.
Ahead of the trip, his first abroad as Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett told reporters that Joe Biden was “an old and true friend of the State of Israel” .
For Dan Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Israel, the prime minister’s visit will set a new tone for US-Israel relations after 12 years of the Netanyahu era.
“Netanyahu was convinced that he knew better than the president he was dealing with what the United States should do,” Dan Kurtzer told AFP.
With Naftali Bennett on the other hand, “even if there are differences on the policy to be pursued, and there will be, the two will be able to exchange without this layer of disrespect,” argued the former ambassador.
Iran’s “regional aggressions”
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 Iran nuclear deal that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Since this decision, Iran has reneged on certain key commitments, including uranium enrichment.
“The Prime Minister thinks that returning to the Iranian nuclear deal (…) is a mistake,” a senior Israeli official told reporters, saying the deal had not curbed “attacks regions “of Iran .
Naftali Bennett said he would present a “methodical plan” to Joe Biden on the matter.
During his visit to the US capital, Naftali Bennett met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Minister of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday.
The US commitment to Israel’s security remains “unwavering,” Antony Blinken told the Israeli prime minister.
The two-state question: “irrelevant and non-existent”
Advisers to Naftali Bennett have also said that the Prime Minister did not intend to discuss the resumption of discussions on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories annexed by Israel in 1967.
The question of the “two states is irrelevant, (it is) non-existent,” a senior official told reporters.
Joe Biden’s government supports a two-state solution and has reinstated aid to Palestinians in the hundreds of millions of dollars, most of which was cut by Donald Trump.
For Shibley Telhami, professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland, traveling to Washington to meet with President Biden gives legitimacy to Naftali Bennett.
Joe Biden’s support for the prime minister contrasts with growing criticism of Israel by progressive Democrats in Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But the president has resisted calls from a number of elected Democrats for stronger restrictions on aid to Israel, focusing on other issues like the pandemic and Afghanistan. “The idea that this is not a priority issue protects Bennett,” said Shibley Telhami.