Dec 30, 2022 - World

Scoop: White House sending Jake Sullivan to Israel for talks with Netanyahu

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a news conference earlier this month.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a news conference earlier this month. Photo:

The Biden administration plans to send national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel in mid-January for talks with newly sworn-in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his government's policies, according to five Israeli and U.S. officials.

Why it matters: The White House is concerned about the new Israeli government's policies on the occupied West Bank — including plans to expand settlements and legalize outposts.

  • U.S. concerns extend to policies that could harm Israeli democracy.
  • Those include measures that would decrease the independence of Israel's judicial system, and challenge the rights of its Arab minority and the LGBTQ+ communities.

The big picture: Netanyahu returned to power on Thursday — 18 months after he was ousted — with a new hardline coalition that could take steps toward annexing the West Bank.

Driving the news: The Israeli officials said a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken could follow soon after Sullivan's trip.

  • It could also set up a possible visit by Netanyahu to Washington in February, the Israeli sources said.

Sullivan is expected to meet with Netanyahu and new Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

  • He will also likely meet Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's confidant and the new minister for strategic affairs, who is expected to be the prime minister's point person to handle relations with the White House.

Between the lines: Israeli officials say Netanyahu wants to work with the Biden administration on two key issues — stopping Iran's nuclear program and reaching a peace deal with Saudi Arabia.

  • Yes, but: The tense relationship between Washington and Riyadh will make it harder for Netanyahu to get the U.S. support he needs to try and make progress with Saudi Arabia.

What they're saying: The White House declined to comment about Sullivan’s possible visit.

  • Blinken stressed in a statement on Thursday evening that the Biden administration will oppose any policy that would endanger the viability of a two-state solution or go against Democratic values. It echoed a similar statement by Biden.
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