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Bennett White House visit likely postponed to September

CM 03/08/2021

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington is unlikely to take place this month as planned, a source close to the prime minister said on Tuesday.

Though Bennett had aimed to visit the White House before German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to Israel on August 28-30, Jerusalem and Washington are now working to find a date after that. 
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with incoming Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata in Washington on Monday. Bennett’s Diplomatic Adviser Shimrit Meir was in Washington as well.
According to the White House readout of the conversation, “Sullivan congratulated Dr. Hulata on his new role and emphasized that he looks forward to working together to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel partnership.”

The two discussed several regional issues, “including the threat posed by Iran,” the statement read, and agreed “to consult closely on these issues.”
They also discussed “advancing the normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world and recent positive developments in Israel’s relationship with Jordan.”
“Sullivan also stressed the importance of pursuing positive steps related to the Palestinians, which are critical to peace, security and prosperity,” the statement said.
“They discussed the upcoming visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett, and Mr. Sullivan conveyed that President [Joe] Biden looks forward to warmly welcoming Prime Minister Bennett to the White House soon,” the White House said in a statement.
Hulata and Meir came to Washington prepared with messages about Iran but little else pertaining to the US-Israel relationship, the source close to Bennett said, since the prime minister has been prioritizing domestic issues like passing the budget and combatting rising COVID-19 cases.
A source in Jerusalem said that, since Hulata, Bennett’s appointee, is technically not yet National Security Adviser in Israel and Meir Ben-Shabbat is still finishing his tenure, Hulata and Sullivan were limited in what they could discuss.
Meir has been in touch with Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa in the US National Security Council Brett McGurk, but did not hold senior-level meetings with members of the Biden administration, and she addressed the Atlantic Council, a major nonpartisan think tank, the Israeli source said. 
Meir did not respond to a request to confirm the source’s assertions.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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