Biden and Naftali Bennett meet, seeking to strengthen US-Israel ties

WASHINGTON – When the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Israel meets with President Biden at the White House on Thursday, the two new lead...


WASHINGTON – When the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Israel meets with President Biden at the White House on Thursday, the two new leaders plan to seek a reset in relations between their countries and strengthen a bond that has shown signs of tension.

Mr Biden, who called Mr Bennett to congratulate him less than two hours after being sworn in two months ago, tried to send a clear signal that the United States supports his new, diverse coalition government.

Mr Bennett said he wanted his administration to be known as the “government of goodwill” and that he wanted to adopt a milder tone towards the United States than his longtime predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has often clashed with Democratic leaders. .

But for any conciliatory style, the challenge can be the substance. Mr. Biden and Mr. Bennett, who have never met before, have very different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal.

Mr. Bennett has made it clear that there will be no independent Palestinian state as long as he heads his government. The Biden administration, on the other hand, has expressed a deep commitment to a two-state solution which by definition includes an independent Palestinian state.

Bennett also opposes the return of the United States to the Iran deal, which the Biden administration is studying.

“These are two very central issues in the US-Israel relationship on which there are radically different views,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, chairman of J Street, a pro-Israel liberal advocacy group. “The tone and atmosphere cannot replace the fact that there is a fundamental difference in perspective on the fundamental issues at play in the US-Israel relationship.”

In a recent interview with the New York TimesMr Bennett has said he will expand West Bank settlements, a move Mr Biden opposes. And he refused to support US plans to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Yet he made it clear that he wanted the meeting to show that relations with the United States were on a more solid footing, even though some of his policies are similar to those of Mr. Netanyahu.

“There is a new dimension here – to come up with new ways of solving problems, to be very realistic, very pragmatic and reasonable with your friends,” Bennett said.

His visit comes as Mr Biden goes through the biggest foreign policy crisis of his young presidency, trying to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan ahead of his August 31 deadline for a withdrawal of US troops from the country after 20 years of war.

At home, Mr. Biden is dealing with cross currents on Israel in its own party, as a forceful progressive wing and a quiet change among more mainstream Democrats has led many lawmakers to take a more skeptical approach to the longtime ally.

Mr Bennett is also the rare international leader with whom Mr Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shares no history, a distinction that sets Mr Bennett apart even from some of his neighbors. Last month when King Abdullah II of Jordan became the first Arab head of state to visit the White House since Mr Biden took office, the president has called him a “loyal and decent friend” and noted: “We have been hanging out for a long time.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden and Naftali Bennett meet, seeking to strengthen US-Israel ties
Biden and Naftali Bennett meet, seeking to strengthen US-Israel ties
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