Wed 20 Sep 2023 12:47 pm - Jerusalem Time
A tense meeting between Biden and Netanyahu is expected today
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden will meet on Wednesday for the first time since the former returned to power at the end of 2022, in a meeting that is expected to be dominated by an atmosphere of tension.
Amid his concerns over Netanyahu's controversial judicial reform, Biden declined to invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House, and the two men will instead meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The meeting is expected to address the issue of normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has been stressing for many years that the normalization of its relations with Israel and its recognition of it depend on implementing the two-state solution with the Palestinians. The Kingdom did not join the Abraham Accords concluded in 2020, which were brokered by the United States and under which Israel established relations with the Kingdom’s neighbors, the UAE and Bahrain. Sudan and Morocco joined them.
Last week, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said one focus of the talks would be “the democratic values shared by the United States and Israel.”
However, the United States and Israel seem far apart recently, especially after the Democratic US President described Netanyahu's right-wing government as one of the most "extremist" governments in Israel's history.
Netanyahu's policies have caused tension in relations with the United States, the country's strongest ally, since his return to power after winning the legislative elections with the support of extreme right-wing parties in December.
The US President strongly criticized the judicial reform plan, which Netanyahu's opponents consider a threat to democracy in Israel and a step towards an illiberal, even authoritarian, path.
In July, Biden received in the Oval Office moderate Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who called for a reconsideration of the judicial reform proposed by the government.
Earlier this year, a dispute arose after Netanyahu said he had received an invitation to visit the White House, but the White House only then said that the two men would meet “in the United States.”
Relations witnessed further tension due to the continuing settlement expansion despite repeated calls by the United Nations to stop it.
But despite the tensions between Biden and Netanyahu, there is no tangible indication that the United States will ease its long-term support for the Hebrew state, which is its main ally in the Middle East.
On Wednesday, the two men will address the Biden administration's push for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize bilateral relations. Saudi Arabia has always refused to recognize Israel.
Sullivan noted that they will discuss "a vision for a more stable, prosperous and integrated region."
Biden is likely to offer Saudi Arabia an ambitious security deal like the one he recently offered to Japan and South Korea, according to the New York Times.
Biden and Netanyahu will also "compare notes on effectively confronting and deterring Iran," as the US administration is keen to confront Tehran's regional influence and its nuclear ambitions.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and billionaire Elon Musk discussed the risks associated with artificial intelligence, Israeli politics, and content control on the “X” platform, during a live conversation on the social networking site owned by the owner of Tesla and SpaceX.
“I hope you can find the ability to put an end to anti-Semitism (via X) or reduce it as much as possible,” Netanyahu told Musk.