Unwavering Commitment Between US And Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden met in the White House on August 27 where they discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, COVID-19 responses, and more in the first personal encounter between the two leaders.

President Biden expressed US “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security” and their goal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons through diplomatic ways, but also considering “other options” if diplomacy fails.

Iran has already responded to Biden’s “illegal threat” against another country by warning of its “right to reciprocal response to available options”, as Al Jazeera picks up.

Despite Bennett’s opposition to Washington’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, he said he was “happy” with Biden’s position in a sign of bridging the gap between the Israeli and American approaches to Tehran, according to Al Jazeera.

Bennett’s government opposes the return to the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015 because it sees the nuclear program as a potential threat to Israel’s existence, according to the BBC.

Iran has gradually breached its commitments in retaliation for the sanctions that former US President Trump reinstated when he pulled the US out of the accord in 2018.

Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful and reminds us that it is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Israel refuses to join and remains the only nuclear military power in the Middle East. Now it seems that Israel’s fear has been growing since, according to Israel’s Defense Minister, Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a bomb.

The first sit-down should have taken place at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, but after the bombings outside the airport in Kabul that have killed about 175 people, including 13 US service members, it was postponed.

More optics than substance

For Bennett, it is important to count on the support of the US since he leads an ideologically diverse coalition, and its right-wing Yamina party had only seven seats in the March 2021 elections. As a new prime minister, visiting the US President is a symbolic and ceremonial moment.

According to the Times of Israel journalists’ Lazar Berman and Jacob Magid, Bennett had four goals for the trip: to forge a direct connection with Biden; to help the US understand his approach regarding Iran; to ensure US commitment to replenishing stocks for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, and move forward on a visa waiver agreement for Israelis looking to enter the US.

During the meeting in front of the cameras, it seemed to be a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, but there are stark differences between both, especially when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, CNN’s Kevin Liptak describes.

Biden wants to negotiate the nuclear deal while Bennett refuses. However, according to Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, Bennett could have little hope of swaying Biden from his desire to rejoin the deal. On the other hand, Bennett rejects the idea of a two-state solution to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, something Biden supports.

Be as it may be, there are already signs that the Israeli government could be convincing the Biden administration to back off on its pledges to the Palestinian Authorities, including the reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem and the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, Marwan Bishara, a senior political analyst at Al Jazeera said.

Moreover, Biden refuses to change his position on the illegal settlement expansion and annexation of occupied Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights, Bishara adds.

According to news reports, for Biden, the sit-down represents another focus point away from Afghanistan. Additionally, the withdrawal from Afghanistan could free up resources to support Israel. Biden is also willing to discuss the Abraham Accords that normalize relations between Israel and some Muslim-majority nations. It is believed that he has been working behind the scenes to expand those arrangements.

Another topic of disagreement is Israeli’s trade with China. According to Bishara, the Biden administration is focused on its greatest strategic challenge, China, which has been expanding its influence in the Greater Middle East and has invested more than $19bn in Israel in the past 18 years.

This meeting seems to be more a façade of friendliness that comes at a time when Israel is really worried that the US will leave them hanging too like Afghanistan and abandon the region. Analysts are talking that this reunion is no different from previous meetings and that Israel will eventually do what it takes to keep the US fully involved in the Middle East.

This is a clear chance to start a new era of US-Israeli after stormy relations between Netanyahu and Democratic US administrations. Israel’s Prime Minister said he was bringing a “new spirit of co-operation” from Israel after the government of Netanyahu, who clashed with Biden during the first months of 2021. With the disastrous situation of Afghanistan, the greatest benefit of the encounter for Biden is showing that America has at least one strong ally in the Middle East.

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