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Biden, Israeli PM postpone meeting because of Afghanistan

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 8/26/2021 Dave Goldiner

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s scheduled first meeting at the White House was delayed so President Biden could remain focused on dealing with the aftermath of deadly explosions near the Kabul airport that killed a dozen U.S. troops and at least 60 Afghans seeking to flee their country after the Taliban takeover.

Biden and Bennett were scheduled to meet late Thursday morning for their first face-to-face conversation since Bennett became Israel’s prime minister in June. The two will instead meet on Friday.

“On behalf of the people of Israel, I share our deep sadness over the loss of American lives in Kabul,” Bennett said in a statement posted on social media. “Israel stands with the United States in these difficult times, just as America has always stood with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the United States.”

Naftali Bennett wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett © OLIVIER DOULIERY Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (OLIVIER DOULIERY/)

The newly minted premier is expected to present his trademark hardline stands to persuade Biden not to return to the Iran nuclear deal, arguing Tehran has already advanced in its uranium enrichment, and that sanctions relief would give Iran more resources to back Israel’s enemies in the region.

The Israeli leader met separately Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss Iran and other issues. The visit is his first to the U.S. as prime minister.

Bennett, who recently took power from longstanding premier Benjamin Netanyahu, told Blinken Wednesday that he opposes a Palestinian state and believes only a confrontational stance will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Biden has backed the nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of. It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will renew the deal with Tehran and other world powers or take a more aggressive position that Israel prefers.

A longtime leader of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, Bennett is a fierce and uncompromising opponent of any independent Palestinian state, a stance that is at odds with official U.S. government policy.

Naftali Bennett, Tony Blinken are posing for a picture: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, on August 25, 2021. © Provided by New York Daily News US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, on August 25, 2021.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, on August 25, 2021. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/)

Bennett is also looking to turn the page from his predecessor.

Netanyahu had a close relationship with Trump after frequently clashing with Obama. Biden, who has met with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, had his own tensions with Netanyahu over the years.

During his latest White House campaign, Biden called Netanyahu “counterproductive” and an “extreme right” leader.

Biden waited nearly a month after his election before making his first call to Netanyahu, raising concerns in Jerusalem and among some Netanyahu backers in Washington that the two would have a difficult relationship. The president called Bennett just hours after he was sworn in as prime minister in June to offer his congratulations.

“There’s a new government in the U.S. and a new government in Israel,” Bennett said. “I bring with me from Jerusalem a new spirit of cooperation, and this rests on the special and long relationship between the two countries.”

With News Wire Services

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