Naftali Bennett met with US President Joe Biden for the first time as Israel’s prime minister on Friday at the White House.
Biden told Bennett that he prefers diplomacy when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but he said if that fails, the US will consider “other options” to ensure Iran “never” gets nuclear bombs.
The meeting between Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden comes as tensions with Iran, Israel’s regional arch rival, are rising, and Israel is resuming its assault of the besieged Gaza Strip amid Palestinian protests.
The meeting came a day delayed after a deadly bomb attacks at the Kabul airport cast a shadow on an Israeli charm offensive.
In remarks at the Oval Office before a closed-door meeting, Biden reiterated America’s “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security and the “unshakeable partnership between the two nations.”
“The American service members lost their lives while saving other people’s lives. That is the very definition of courage and sacrifice,” Bennett said.
Biden said that he “fully supports” replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system that was depleted during 11 days of fighting in May between the Jewish state and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Bennett was initially expected to meet with key administration officials on Wednesday, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and with Biden on Thursday during his first state visit overseas since taking office.
Bennett had said his major priority in his talk with Biden will be Iran, “especially the leapfrogging in the Iranian nuclear programme over the last two to three years,” according to a statement provided by the Prime Minister’s Office before his departure.
Bennett has spoken out against the prospect of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers, claiming that any deal must also put a stop to Iran’s regional aggression.
A series of attacks on Israeli-linked shipping have occurred in recent months, all of which are believed to have been carried out by Iran.
Bennett told his Cabinet earlier this week that he would tell the president “That now is the time to halt the Iranians, to stop this thing,” and that he would not re-enter “a nuclear deal that has already expired and is no longer relevant, even to those who thought it was once significant.”
In the three months since an 11-day Israeli offensive that killed 265 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel, tensions between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers have grown.