President Biden Friday told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he remains committed to diplomacy to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite the Jewish state’s demands for tougher action.
After a meeting that was delayed by the deadly Afghan suicide bombing, Biden told Bennett he would consider other options only if his effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal fails.
“We’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where that takes us,” Biden said during an Oval Office meeting. “But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”
The cordial meeting was the first since Bennett took power as the leader of a broad coalition that ousted longtime premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett’s agenda for the talks included trying to talk Biden out of returning to the Iran nuclear deal that was brokered during the Obama administration and later scrapped by former President Trump.
“Iran is the world’s number one exporter of terror, instability, and human rights violations,” Bennett said. “And we got to stop it, and we both agree.”
Biden stuck by his less-confrontational approach to Tehran. But the president seemed eager to express support for Bennett, who leads an extremely diverse and precarious coalition including radical right-wing Jewish nationalists and even an Arab party.
“The U.S. will always be there for Israel,” Biden told Bennett. “It’s an unshakeable partnership between our two nations.”
Biden and Bennett pointedly avoided focusing on deep divisions between the two leaders on Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians.
Bennett fiercely opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and supports the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, both of which Biden strongly opposes.
The two sides both played down the Palestinian issue in an apparent attempt to avoid any public friction and to avoid raising unfounded hopes for a resumption of the moribund Mideast peace process.