WASHINGTON D.C.: US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House talks on Friday that he was putting “diplomacy first” to try to rein in Iran’s nuclear program but if negotiations fail he would be prepared to turn to other unspecified options.
In brief remarks before reporters were ushered out of the Oval Office, both leaders touched on Iran, one of the thorniest issues between the Biden administration and Israel, but mostly papered over disagreements.
Biden said he and Bennett discussed “the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”
“We’re putting diplomacy first and we’ll see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,” Biden added, without offering specifics.
After a one-day delay due to a deadly suicide bombing in Kabul during the chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan, Biden and Bennett held their first meeting seeking to reset US-Israeli relations and narrow differences over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear developments.
But the meeting, the first since Biden and Bennett took office this year, was eclipsed by Thursday’s attack outside Kabul airport that killed at least 92 people, including 13 US service members, confronting Biden with the worst crisis of his young presidency.
“The mission there … is dangerous and now it’s come with a significant loss of American personnel, but it’s a worthy mission,” Biden told reporters after his one-on-one talks with Bennett.
US forces helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee new Taliban rule were on alert for more attacks.
Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, was expected to press Biden to harden his approach to Iran and back out of negotiations aimed at reviving an international nuclear deal with Tehran that Trump abandoned.
US-Iran negotiations have stalled as Washington awaits the next move by Iran’s new hardline president.
“I was happy to hear your clear words that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Bennett told Biden. “You emphasized that you’ll try the diplomatic route but there’s other options if that doesn’t work out,” he added, also stopping short of identifying the possibilities.
Bennett has been just as adamant as Netanyahu was in pledging to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Iran consistently denies it is seeking a bomb.
Bennett told reporters at the White House that Israel has developed a “comprehensive strategy” to keep Iran away from nuclear breakout and stop its “regional aggression.”
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