JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet with US President Joe Biden in his first official state visit to the White House on August 26.
Presidential spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that the two leaders will “strengthen the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel, reflect the deep ties between our governments and our people, and underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
The two leaders will discuss the “critical issues related to regional and global security, including Iran” and the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the statement continued.
The readout from Bennett’s office about the upcoming visit made no mention of peace talks with the Palestinians but said it would strengthen the US-Israel relationship and address the “Iranian nuclear issue.”
Next week’s meeting will be the first between Biden and Bennett and comes at a sensitive time in the Middle East. It follows Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban and Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza in May.
Regional tensions have also been rising between Israel and Iran. Both the American and Israeli leaders want to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon but disagree on strategy.
The Biden administration wants to change and revive the 2015 nuclear deal Iran made with world powers, which provided sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program. Former President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal in 2018, arguing that Iran made the deal in bad faith and was pursuing nuclear weapons – a claim Iran vehemently denies.
Bennett opposes the nuclear deal and has said Israel is ready to face Iran on its own if it must. Meanwhile, Iran continues to enrich uranium past the limits set by the nuclear deal and has been blamed for attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf.
Another area of disagreement between the US and Israel is the peace process with the Palestinians.
Bennett leads a small hard-line party that opposes major concessions to the Palestinians. However, he is the head of a coalition government involving parties across the political spectrum, including for the first time, an Arab party.
Bennett has indicated he would like to improve ties and bolster the Palestinian economy, but there haven’t been any substantive peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians for years and relations remain chilly. The Palestinians are divided between rival governments and Israel is in talks with Gaza to maintain a fragile truce set in place after the May war.
The White House wants to make peace talks a central issue – a reflection of human rights concerns for Palestinians among Democrats.