Biden, Israel’s Bennett Postpone Meeting After Kabul Attack
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett postponed a White House meeting after an attack in Afghanistan killed 12 U.S. service members and at least 13 Afghans.
Biden and Bennett, who had been scheduled to hold their first in-person talks on Thursday at the White House, will instead meet on Friday, according to a statement from the U.S. Biden also canceled a virtual meeting with a group of governors to deal with the unfolding crisis in Kabul.
During the meeting, Biden plans to emphasize his strong support for Israel, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But the meeting may also reveal divergent approaches on Iran: the U.S. favors a diplomatic pact to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and Israel has said it may use secret attacks to disable Iranian facilities.
Bennett is looking to reset Israel’s ties with the U.S., after an era dominated by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump, though the new Israeli government has carried over some policies of its predecessor. It also seeks to advance a strategic plan for Iran; fulfill its $1 billion request for replenishing Iron Dome missile interceptors; and visa-free entry to the U.S., local Channel 12 news reported, citing an official traveling with the prime minister.
“We expect their conversation to be wide-ranging,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, citing subjects such as security within Israel, Iran and the pandemic.
With Iran’s nuclear program accelerating weekly, U.S. officials said the administration is committed to finding a diplomatic resolution after inheriting Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. The Biden administration’s view is Trump’s approach undercut efforts to slow nuclear development, the officials said.
The leaders will also discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, the officials said. U.S. officials have relied heavily on Israeli data in announcing a plan for booster shots, though some health experts say the data aren’t clear on whether they’re needed for all age groups.
Ahead of the meeting, Israeli officials have been briefing reporters about the threat posed to Israel by Iran’s nuclear program.
Bennett will raise Israel’s opposition to the U.S-led efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, he said an interview with the New York Times.
Bennett said the meeting would address a number of actions to strengthen Israel’s military superiority, according to a statement released by his office. In a separate media briefing, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said the progression of Iran’s nuclear program had led the military to accelerate its operational plans to strike atomic facilities should it be necessary, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that Iran launched last month’s deadly attack on an Israeli-linked cargo ship from Iranian soil. There’s a possibility Israel may act against Iran in the future to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a statement released by the defense ministry.
Since coming to power, the new Israeli government -- - an unlikely alliance of nationalists and leftists, Arabs and Jews, religious and secular -- has emphasized rebuilding relations with the country’s traditional allies, including the European Union, Egypt and Jordan.
The Bennett government is also looking to build on the Trump-brokered normalization agreements reached last year with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. The new government recently struck an agreement with Morocco to upgrade diplomatic ties between the two countries in the coming months.
The government won’t reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, according to Bennett’s interview with the Times. It will not annex West Bank land but will continue letting Jewish settlements in the West Bank expand, he said.
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