President Joe Biden has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House for a meeting before the end of the year, in a sign of easing tensions between the two longtime allies. The invitation was announced by Netanyahu’s office and confirmed by the White House after a phone call between the two leaders on Monday.
The call was the first between Biden and Netanyahu since July, when the US president expressed his concern about Israel’s proposed judicial reforms that would curb the powers of the Supreme Court and potentially undermine the rule of law and democracy in Israel. The reforms have sparked months of mass protests and strikes in Israel, as well as criticism from Washington and other international partners.
According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the two leaders discussed “a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual concern”, including Iran’s nuclear program, regional stability, normalization with Arab countries, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement said that Netanyahu “responded positively” to Biden’s invitation and that the details of the meeting would be coordinated by their teams.
The White House said in a separate statement that Biden reaffirmed the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel and the US commitment to Israel’s security. The statement also said that Biden raised “hard issues”, including protecting the “checks and balances” in a democracy, and urged Netanyahu to find a compromise on the judicial overhaul.
Long Waited Meeting
The meeting between Biden and Netanyahu, which is expected to take place in Washington D.C., will be their first face-to-face encounter since Netanyahu returned to office for a sixth term in December 2020, following three inconclusive elections in less than a year. Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, but also its most controversial, facing corruption charges and a fractured coalition.
The relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been strained by several issues, including their divergent views on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Biden has expressed his willingness to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that was abandoned by former President Donald Trump, while Netanyahu has vehemently opposed the agreement and warned of Iran’s regional aggression. Biden has also supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while Netanyahu has pursued settlement expansion and annexation plans in the occupied West Bank.
The invitation from Biden comes as Netanyahu is also set to meet with other world leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. Among them are Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Netanyahu will also meet with Tesla CEO Elon Musk to discuss cooperation on innovation and technology.
The meeting with Biden will be an opportunity for both leaders to reaffirm their alliance and address their differences on key issues. It will also be a chance for Netanyahu to showcase his diplomatic skills and boost his domestic standing amid political turmoil and public discontent in Israel.