U.S. President Joe Biden lholds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 78th U.N. General Assembly in Latest York City, U.S., September 20, 2023.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations summit Wednesday and agreed to work toward establishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The meeting marked the primary time the 2 leaders have met since Netanyahu returned to power nine months ago. Israel and Saudi Arabia currently should not have official diplomatic relations. The president’s aim entering the meeting was to construct a recent rapport between the 2 countries’ leaders. Doing so, Biden said, could be a “big deal.”
Speaking before the meeting, Netanyahu said he thought in order well.
“I feel that under your leadership, Mr. President, we will forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said.
“I feel such a peace would go a great distance for us to advance the tip of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state and advance a real peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he continued.
A senior White House official told reporters after the meeting that the 2 leaders had a “very constructive, very candid” conversation but stressed there’s a protracted option to go on normalization discussions.
Biden and Netanyahu have had a strained relationship because the Israeli leader announced plans to overhaul the judicial system, weakening its authority, which was met with mass protests.
In his opening remarks prior to the meeting, Biden hinted the judiciary changes could be on the list of topics discussed.
“Today, we’ll discuss a few of the hard issues — that’s upholding democratic values that lie at the center of our partnership, including the checks and balances in our systems and preserving the trail to a negotiated two-state solution, and ensuring that Iran never, never acquires a nuclear weapon,” Biden said.
Netanyahu also addressed the chief issue in his opening remarks, affirming Israel’s commitment to democratic values.
“I need to reassert here before you, Mr. President, that one thing is definite, and one thing won’t ever change. And that’s Israel’s commitment to democracy,” Netanyahu said. “We are going to proceed to uphold the values that each our proud democracies cherish.”
The White House, in a press release after the meeting, said Biden “reiterated his concern about any fundamental changes to Israel’s democratic system, absent the broadest possible consensus.”
Netanyahu has not visited the Oval Office since his reelection. Israeli prime ministers are typically invited to the White House inside their first 12 months of the term. The White House, in a readout after the meeting, confirmed Biden prolonged Netanyahu an official invitation to go to Washington, D.C.