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Netanyahu and Biden meet in Davos
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Biden coming to Israel to discuss US military aid
US vice president to discuss new Memorandum of Understanding on security aid with Netanyahu, as Israel seeks to add $10-15 billion to the American aid it gets; he will also meet with Peres and Rivlin, and spend personal time with family.
US Vice President Joe Biden will land in Israel on Tuesday afternoon, six years after his last visit.

 

 

Biden's main objective for the visit is working to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the United States, which will ensure Washington's continued security aid to Jerusalem for the next 10 years.

 

It is unlikely a final agreement will be reached on the Memorandum of Understanding, which is supposed to replace the previous one signed in 2007, but the vice president will work to advance the issue and to convince the prime minister to sign the Memorandum before President Barack Obama leaves office.

 

Biden and Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem in 2014 (Photo: GPO)
Biden and Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem in 2014 (Photo: GPO)
 

Washington is hoping Biden could resolve some of the disagreements. There are big gaps in the talks between the two sides: Israel wants the American aid to provide a response to the increasing threat it faces from Iran following the signing of the nuclear agreement with world powers. In addition, the US is willing to increase the military aid to Israel in $5 billion, spread over the 10 years, on top of the $3.1 billion already approved, while Israel seeks a $10-$15 billion addition.

 

Biden will also work to advance negotiations between Israel and Turkey on the normalization of ties, which is an American interest as it would increase stability in the region and serve as a counter-balance to the Shi'ite terror axis of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The Americans see the natural gas reserves discovered off the shores of Israel as a catalyst to form this counter-bloc, and Biden is expected to raise this issue with Netanyahu.

 

Biden's first stop in Israel will be at the Peres Center for Peace, where he will meet with former Israeli president Shimon Peres and learn of some of the projects the center is leading. Biden will then have dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and on Wednesday he will meet with both Israel's current president, Reuven Rivlin, and with Netanyahu.

 

On Wednesday evening, the American vice president will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

 

Biden's last official visit to Israel in 2010 (he arrived in Israel in January 2014 to attend former prime minister Ariel Sharon's funeral - IE) ended with a massive clash between Israel and the US after Jerusalem published tenders for the construction of 1,600 housing units beyond the Green Line, which was seen by the Americans as a slap in the face and an attempt to embarrass Biden.

 

Biden and Netanyahu at the funeral of former PM Sharon (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Biden and Netanyahu at the funeral of former PM Sharon (Photo: Reuters)

 

Netanyahu apologized and claimed the publication of the tenders was done by government bureaucrats who did not coordinate it with the leadership. The process has been changed as a result of the incident, and decisions on construction in sensitive areas now must receive the approval of the Prime Minister's Office.

 

This time, both the American administration and the Israeli government went out of their way to ensure there are no settlement construction announcements that could embarrass Biden again.

 

Biden is considered the "good cop" of the Obama administration when it comes to Israel and, unlike Obama who does not have any particular sentiments towards Israel, Biden is considered someone who has warm sentiments towards Israel and, also unlike Obama, towards Netanyahu himself.

 

Netanyahu and Biden meet in Washington in 2011 (Photo: GPO) (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Netanyahu and Biden meet in Washington in 2011 (Photo: GPO)

 

However, Biden harshly criticized Netanyahu in the past, among other things for his attempt to appoint Ran Baratz, who called President Obama an "anti-Semite," as Israel's new public relations chief. Biden also boycotted Netanyahu's speech to Congress on the Iran nuclear deal, which further deteriorated the already strained relations between Israel and the US.

 

Netanyahu addressed Biden's visit at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, saying "This visit expresses the strong relations between Israel and our ally the US. There are those who have predicted the collapse of these relations – it is not so. The relationship is strong in all areas and also in face of the challenges that we are standing together against in our region; I will discuss this, of course, with the Vice President during his visit."

 

Biden will arrive in Israel with his family and grandchildren for a personal visit. He cleared half a day to spend time with his family, at the end of which they will have a family dinner. In May 2015, his son Beau Biden passed away after a long fight against brain cancer. This was the second tragedy Biden experienced, after his first wife and daughter died in a car accident in 1972.

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to cancel a planned trip to Washington on March 20 to speak at the AIPAC Policy Conference, and will instead address the conference via satellite link. Sources close to the prime minister said there are two reasons for the cancelation of the visit: Primarily, the fact that the Memorandum of Understanding has not been finalized yet, and Biden was coming to Israel to discuss it, and secondly because Netanyahu did not want to get sucked into the primaries in the US.

 

The White House had offered two weeks ago to host Netanyahu for a meeting with Obama on March 18, before the president leaves for a historic visit to Cuba, but has learned through media reporters that the visit was off.

 

"We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit," said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

 

"Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister's schedule are false," Price said in an emailed statement.

 

Reuters contributed to this story.

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.08.16, 00:29
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