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US official: Iran a threat to Israel, US is committed to Israel security

CM 25/08/2021 6

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WASHINGTON – The meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Bennett and US President Biden is a “chance for the Prime Minister to hear directly from the President his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and self-defense, and supporting Israel’s defense needs,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the meeting.
The meeting between the two will take place on Thursday morning (local time) just five days before the US self-imposed deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan. “It’s important in the context of those events because (…) the end of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan frees up resources and attention and ultimately allows us to better support our partners like Israel,” the official said.  
“I’m often asked, “Are we de-prioritizing the Middle East and our friends in the Middle East?” And nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, in the Biden administration, we are not pursuing, unachievable goals,” the official continued. 

“We’re not trying to transform the Middle East,” the official argued. “We’re not trying to overthrow regimes. We are pursuing a very steady course, centered on achievable aims; alignment of ends and means; and, first and foremost, support to our partners, and, of course, Israel being second to none.”
Speaking about Iran, the official said that “Iran will be a big topic of discussion because Iran is a threat to Israel, and we are 100 percent committed to the security of Israel – no ifs, ands, or buts.”
“We know this will be a key topic, which, of course, will be discussed in tremendous depth,” the official told reporters.
“since the last administration left the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s nuclear program has just dramatically broken out of the box, and it’s accelerating from week to week,” the official told reporters.
“This is a very serious problem, and the two leaders, will have the opportunity to sit together and discuss what to do about it,” the official said.
“We, of course, committed to a diplomatic path,” the official noted. “We think that is the best way to put a ceiling on the program and roll back the gains that Iran has made over recent years on the nuclear side.” The official also noted, however, that “if that doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue.” 
The leaders are also expected to discuss “Iran‘s destabilizing activities in the region and particularly a very effective bilateral program we’ve set up with the Israelis during a strategic consultation group that we had with them a couple months ago on countering Iranian UAVs,” the official told reporters.
“We inherited a maximum pressure policy, which we don’t think is achieving any particular results,” the official continued. “In fact, it’s going the opposite direction. At the same time, we have not lifted any sanctions, and we have not done anything because we’ve been very clear that sanctions relief will come through Vienna. So, obviously, Iran has a new president, forming a new cabinet, and we’ll see if we’re back at the table in Vienna, in short order, and see how things go.”
Speaking about the Abraham Accords, the official said that the administration has done “an awful lot of work behind the scenes in building upon the breakthroughs of UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and we’ll be discussing that with the Israeli delegation.”
“Also behind the scenes, there’s an awful lot of work going on to expand those arrangements to other countries, so that will also be something that will be a topic of discussion,” the official continued.
The administration is “very pleased with the relations between this new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Bennett and Jordan (…) and also relations between Israel and Egypt,” the official said. “Egypt plays such a critical role in ending the Gaza War, and we think relations between Israel and Egypt are also very much on the right track,” said the official.
Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the official reiterated Biden’s position in favor of the two-state solution, “That’s been his consistent position throughout his career,” the official said. 
PM Bennett meets with US Secretary of Defense (credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)PM Bennett meets with US Secretary of Defense (credit: AVI OHAYON – GPO)
“Of course, we recognize the reality that resumption of talks and negotiations is not likely in the near term for a variety of reasons,” the official continued. “But there are a number of steps that can be taken to kind of dampen the risks of further sparks to conflict, which is something that we have seen Prime Minister Bennett and his government very much committed to.” 
The COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically, Israel’s third booster shot campaign, will also be a matter of discussion, the official said.
We’re very excited about this visit,” the official continued. “As soon as Prime Minister Bennett took office, we began working to find the earliest opportunity to have the two leaders get together face-to-face.”
“This will be their first meeting face-to-face,” the official said, “but, of course, President Biden called Prime Minister Bennett to congratulate him less than two hours after Bennett was sworn into office on June 13th. And I think that sent a very clear signal of US support for the prime minister and for this new government, which is a truly extraordinarily broad, big-tent coalition, which is steering Israel as we speak.” 
The official went on to say that “Bennett leads one of the most diverse coalitions in Israeli history.”
“We think it’s truly remarkable at a time when, as the President often says, we’re demonstrating that democracies can deliver for their people,” the official noted. “That’s something we think his government is truly doing and showing that people with divergent backgrounds and views can come together to solve big problems.”


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