Updated Feb 6, 2022 - World

Biden to visit Israel later this year

President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office at the White House on August 27.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Biden meets in the Oval Office at the White House last August. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden and Israeli counterpart Naftali Bennett discussed nuclear talks with Iran and the Russia-Ukraine crisis during a phone call on Sunday, the two leaders' offices said.

Why it matters: The call during which Biden accepted an invitation to visit Israel later this year came as the nuclear talks have entered a crucial crunch period.

  • The Israeli government remains concerned about a possible deal in Vienna that it believes will be even less effective than it viewed the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Worth noting: This is the first conversation between Biden and Bennett in more than three months. The last time they spoke was during the climate summit in Glasgow when they briefly met during the leaders reception.

Driving the news: The White House said in a statement Sunday evening that the two leaders "discussed the shared security and other challenges in the Middle East region, including the threat posed by Iran and its proxies" and Biden conveyed his "unwavering support" for Israel's security.

  • "The President underscored his commitment to expanding stability and partnerships across the Middle East region, as exemplified by the Abraham Accords, together with Israelis and Palestinians enjoying equal measures of security, freedom, and prosperity," per the statement.
"The President thanked the Prime Minister for his invitation to visit Israel and said he looks forward to a visit later this year. They agreed that their teams would remain in close consultation."
— White House statement

Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister's office said Bennett congratulated Biden during the call for the raid that killed top ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi last week.

  • "The two leaders discussed regional challenges, first and foremost the Iranian growing aggression and the steps for blocking Iran’s nuclear program," Bennett's office said.

What they're saying: Earlier on Sunday at the top of a cabinet meeting, Bennett said a nuclear deal with Iran, according to terms that are being discussed in Vienna, will damage Israel's ability to deal with Tehran’s nuclear program.

  • “Whoever thinks that an agreement will increase stability — is mistaken. It will temporarily delay enrichment but all of us in the region will pay a heavy, disproportionate price for it,” Bennett said.
  • The Israeli prime minister claimed that in recent weeks, as the negotiations have continued, Iran has increased its aggression in the region. “This is how you conduct negotiations, Tehran-style,” Bennett said.
  • Bennett stressed that Israel is reinforcing its military option against Iran and will maintain freedom of action with or without an agreement between Iran and other world powers.

Behind the scenes: Bennett’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, told the cabinet on Sunday that Israel was preparing for a scenario where there is a new nuclear deal that doesn’t serve its interest and for a scenario where there is no deal and Iran’s nuclear program continues with no restraints, according to four ministers who attended the meeting.

  • Hulata told the ministers that Israel isn’t against any deal but is concerned by the parameters of an agreement as they seem to be right now. He stressed Israel's need to maintain good relations with the Biden administration regardless of which scenario materializes out of the talks in Vienna.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the White House.

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