US President Joe Biden has discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and bilateral security ties with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Biden was supposed to meet with Bennett on Thursday, while the White House rescheduled it to Friday after deadly attacks at the Kabul airport, which killed 13 US troops and wounded 18.
Sitting with Bennett at the Oval Office, Biden reaffirmed the US “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security and supported the Jewish state to deepen its relationship with Arab and Muslim countries, Xinhua news agency reported.
“And we’re also going to discuss the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” said Biden. “But we’re putting diplomacy first, seeing where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”
Bennett extended his condolence for US casualties in the Kabul attack.
The prime minister said the Iran nuclear program was the main topic in his discussion with Biden. “We’ve developed a comprehensive strategy that we’re going to be talking about with two goals,” he said. “The first goal is to stop Iran on its regional aggression and start rolling it back into the box; and the second is to permanently keep Iran away from ever being able to break out their nuclear weapon.”
Israel opposed Biden’s diplomatic efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Washington and Tehran conducted multiple rounds of indirect talks in Austria’s capital Vienna since April to revive the deal, but the process had stalled for weeks as the two sides could not settle their differences.
The two leaders also held different views over the Palestine-Israel issue. Biden expressed his support for a two-state solution, which Bennett rejected.
Bennett took office in June, ending his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. This visit was Bennett’s first meeting with President Biden. He met separately with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
Analysts believe that both Biden and Bennett seek a fresh start of the bilateral ties after years of strained relations between Netanyahu and the Democratic leadership.
Bennett’s visit came amid Israel’s heightened tension with its archenemy Iran and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In early August, the United States and Israel blamed Iran for a deadly attack against an oil tanker managed by an Israeli-owned company in the north Arabian Sea. Iran rejected the accusation.
Over the past few days, violent incidents on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip have increased speculation that a renewed escalation with the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is nearing.
Israel and Hamas clashed for 11 days in May, during which 256 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.