Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday in Washington, DC, ahead of a summit with President Joe Biden Thursday.
Bennett and Blinken discussed regional security issues such as the Iranian threat and stressed the importance of the strong bilateral relationship between Washington and Jerusalem. Blinken reaffirmed the "unshakeable" U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.
Blinken also “emphasized that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and dignity, which is important in its own right and as a means to advance prospects for a two-state solution,” according to a statement by State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Israel’s potential place on the U.S. visa waiver list also came up, with the two agreeing to advance the issue and “on the importance of working toward Israel’s inclusion … to benefit both U.S. citizens and Israeli citizens.”
Bennett thanked Blinken for the U.S. support and backing. The prime minister told the secretary of state that he also looked forward to discussing the issue of climate change, adding that Israel “has a unique role to play” through its high-tech sector.
Earlier on Wednesday, Bennett met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said the United States was "committed to strengthening its strategic relationship with Israel."
"The administration is committed to Israel’s security and its right to self-defense,” he said.
Speaking at the Pentagon ahead of the meeting, Austin added that “Iran must be held accountable for acts of aggression in the Middle East and on international waters,” referring to the July 30 drone attack on the Israeli-operated Mercer Street oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which Israel and the United States attributed to Tehran.
"The Department of Defense is also committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to ensure that Israel can defend itself against threats from Iran, its proxies, and terrorist groups,” Austin said as he confirmed that the U.S. will replenish Iron Dome missile defense batteries.
“We are working closely with Congress to provide all the necessary information to respond positively to your request to provide 1 billion dollars in emergency funding. And it’s going to save more innocent lives."
Before traveling to Washington, Bennett told reporters that Biden was "an old and true friend of the State of Israel."
"There is a new administration in the U.S. and a new government in Israel, and I am bringing with me from Jerusalem a new spirit of cooperation," Bennett said.
Bennett has said he will present Biden with "an orderly plan" to restrain the Iranians, hinting Israel could leverage its new ties with Arab nations thanks to the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.