Bennett Meets Biden in Oval Office to Align Positions on Iran, Reset Israel-US Relations
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett left Washington Sunday morning following his first face-to-face sit-down with US President Joe Biden since taking office in June. The meeting dealt chiefly with countering the Iranian nuclear threat, missile development and support for regional proxies such as Hizbullah and Hamas.
While Bennett hoped to convince the president that returning to the nuclear deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic – negotiated under the Obama administration and then scuttled by former President Donald Trump – was a bad idea, President Biden made clear that he wished to give diplomacy a chance.
That was no surprise to observers. Nor was the American president’s purposefully vague reference to “other options” if negotiations fail.
The main significance of the meeting was that each leader seemed committed to restoring the traditionally bipartisan nature of American support for Israel, after years in which former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had openly acrimonious relations with President Barack Obama followed by a uniquely close association with former President Donald Trump. Pundits used words like “restart,” “reboot” and “reset” often during the visit.
Bennett said he was bringing from Jerusalem “a new spirit, a spirit of goodwill, a spirit of hope, a spirit of decency and honesty, a spirit of unity and bipartisanship.” The direct reference was to Israel’s right-center-left-Jewish-Arab unity government, but it was also a not-so-veiled swipe at Netanyahu that was sure to win points in the White House.
President Biden, for his part, warmly noted that Israel’s new prime minister, in his former career as a high-tech entrepreneur, had “ridden the Amtrak train a lot from New York down to Wilmington, Delaware.” The seemingly trivial observation was high praise from the president who, as a senator, accumulated significant mileage – both literal and political – riding the rails on Amtrack’s Washington-Wilmington line for nearly four decades.