President Joe Biden, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet have postponed their White House meetings. Biden focuses his attention on the aftermath of the deadly explosions at Kabul’s airport that killed U.S. troops as well as Afghans fleeing their country following the Taliban takeover.
Biden and Bennett were due to meet on Thursday afternoon for their first face-toface conversation since Bennett was elected Israel’s prime Minister in June. Instead, they will meet Friday.
Bennett posted a statement on social media, saying that “on behalf of the peoples of Israel, we share our deep sorrow over the loss American lives in Kabul.” “Israel stands by the United States during these difficult times, as America has always stood beside us.” Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people of America.
Bennett stated that the main objective of his visit to Washington was to convince Biden to not renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement. He argued that Iran has already made significant progress in its uranium enrichment and that sanctions relief would allow Iran to support Israel’s enemies.
The Israeli leader met separately Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss Iran and other issues. This is his first visit to the U.S. since he was appointed prime minister.
Bennett had told his Cabinet that he would tell President Obama “that now is a time to halt Iran’s activities, to stop these things” and not to enter “a nuclear agreement that has expired and is no longer relevant, even for those who once believed it was relevant.”
Biden stated his desire to save the 2015 landmark pact that was cultivated by Barack Obama but ended in disgrace by Donald Trump’s. As regional hostilities simmer, U.S. indirect negotiations with Iran remain deadlocked and Washington continues to impose crippling sanctions.
Trump’s withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear agreement led Tehran to overturn all restrictions on its nuclear enrichment. Now, the country enriches only 63% of uranium, which is a very small step from weapons-grade levels. This compares with 3.67% under Trump’s deal. The country also spins more advanced centrifuges than allowed by the agreement, which is worrying for nuclear non-proliferation experts, even though Tehran maintains that its program is peaceful.
Bennett’s Washington visit comes weeks after Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in as Iran’s new president.
Raisi, a conservative cleric who has close ties with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Ali Khamenei (60), suggested that he would engage with the U.S. He also took a strong stance against negotiations to limit Iranian missile development and support regional militias. This is something that the Biden administration hopes to address in a new agreement.
Officials from the Administration acknowledged that Iran’s “breakout”, which is the time required to accumulate enough fissile materials to make a single weapon, now only takes a few months.
A senior administration official spoke under anonymity to discuss the planned talks and said that the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has encouraged Iran to continue with its nuclear program.
Bennett also wants to learn from Benjamin Netanyahu, his predecessor.
After frequent clashes with Obama, Netanyahu developed a close relationship to Trump. Biden, who has met with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, had his own tensions with Netanyahu over the years.
Biden called Netanyahu an “extreme right” leader and “counterproductive” during his most recent White House campaign.
Biden waited almost a month after his election to make his first call at Netanyahu. This raised concerns in Washington and Jerusalem about the possibility of a fraught relationship between the two men. Bennett was called by the president just hours after his swearing-in as prime minister in June, to express his gratitude.
President of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami said Bennett wants to build a good working relationship with the Biden administration. Ben-Ami, who supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian war, said that Bennett and Biden are not in sync on many other issues, including Iran. Bennett is against the creation of a Palestinian State and supports the expansion of settlements on the West Bank. Biden disagrees.
Bennett refused to comment on whether he would block the Biden administration’s plans to reopen a U.S. Consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Ben-Ami stated that “the warmth that will be projected and the solid working relationship can’t fully mask the reality that the agenda Prime Minister Bennett brings to Washington with and that of the Biden administration on some core issues are almost as different as could be.”