Biden Meets Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu Amid Frosty Relations

Emel Akan
By Emel Akan
September 20, 2023Capitol Report

President Joe Biden met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 20 in New York for the first time since the Israeli leader returned to office late last year. They discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the normalization of relations with Riyadh, during the meeting held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

President Biden opened the bilateral meeting by recalling how long he had known Mr. Netanyahu.

He then said that the two would discuss “hard issues,” including defending “democratic values” and preserving the path to a negotiated two-state solution, a proposed framework for settling the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon was also a priority at the meeting.

In March, President Biden said he wouldn’t invite Mr. Netanyahu to the White House in the near term because of Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to change Israel’s judiciary system.

And in an interview with CNN in July, he described Mr. Netanyahu’s Cabinet as extreme.

“This is one of the most extremist members of Cabinets that I’ve seen,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

The White House expressed concerns about Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to overhaul the country’s judiciary system early this year. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved legislation that repealed the “reasonableness doctrine,” which the Israeli Supreme Court had used to judge government policies. Critics argued that Mr. Netanyahu’s proposed reforms would damage the balance of power between government bodies and destabilize the country’s democracy.

“Even where we have some differences, my commitment to Israel, you know, is ironclad,” President Biden said during the bilateral meeting. “I think without Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world who is secure. Israel is essential.”

“I hope we will see each other in Washington by the end of the year,” Mr. Netanyahu told President Biden in his opening remarks.

Both leaders highlighted the shared goal of a “more stable and prosperous Middle East” and the new economic corridor that was agreed to at the recent G20 Summit in New Delhi.

At the G20 summit early this month, the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a memorandum of understanding for an infrastructure project that will connect India, the Middle East, and Europe. The project will create an economic corridor linked by a railway line and existing ports that run through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.

Israel and Saudi Arabia

During the bilateral meeting, President Biden expressed his hope for the success of efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, noting that such an idea would have been impossible a decade ago.

“I think that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “And I think such a peace would go a long way for us to advance the end of the Arab–Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state, and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Three years ago, Israel normalized ties with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in what is known as the Abraham Accords.

The Biden administration is now pressing for a Saudi–Israeli agreement. While the Abraham Accords brought about significant changes, Washington believes that a Saudi–Israeli deal would represent a watershed moment in Israel’s regional relations, effectively ending its isolation and paving the path for a more peaceful and prosperous region.

However, some aren’t optimistic about the timeline for reaching such an agreement.

“The Biden administration’s effort to broker a Saudi–Israeli agreement is only the most recent in a long line of U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East,” Jon Alterman, senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a recent report.

“While hopes are running increasingly high, a substantial agreement is likely to take years.”

From The Epoch Times

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