After being forced to postpone their first face-to-face meeting because of the Afghanistan suicide bombings, U.S. President Joe Biden was scheduled to host Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House on Friday, with Iran on the agenda.
Thursday’s Islamic State attack outside the Kabul airport, which killed 13 U.S. soldiers and 72 Afghans during a chaotic U.S. evacuation mission from the country, occurred just hours before the Biden-Bennett meeting, initially causing a delay.
But as the U.S. death toll mounted, U.S. and Israeli officials said the meeting had been called off and rescheduled for Friday. Israeli media reported the two leaders would meet at 10:25 a.m. eastern time (14:25 GMT) on Friday.
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In a statement early on Friday, Bennett’s office said Biden called the Israeli premier and “thanked (him) for his understanding of the change in time of their meeting, in light of the events in Afghanistan”.
Bennett expressed his deepest condolences over the attacks and said Israel shared with the U.S. in its sorrow.
Biden and Bennett’s meeting, the first since the two men took office, is aimed at resetting the tone of U.S.-Israeli relations and finding common ground on Iran despite differences on how to deal with its nuclear programme.
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The meeting between #Israel PM Bennet and Biden has been “delayed indefinitely” due to the situation in #Afghanistan.
When it does happen, here’s what you can expect ⬇️ https://t.co/UU2DtZ4SB9
— Eurasia Group (@EurasiaGroup) August 26, 2021
The two leaders will try to turn the page on years of tensions between Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was close to former President Donald Trump, and the last Democratic administration led by Barack Obama with Biden as his vice president.
Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, is expected to press Biden to harden his approach to Iran and halt negotiations aimed at reviving an international nuclear deal with Tehran that Trump abandoned.
Biden will tell Bennett that he shares Israel’s concern that Iran has expanded its nuclear program but remains committed for now to diplomacy with Tehran, a senior administration official said.
Afghanistan cast a heavy shadow over the first meeting between President Biden and Israeli PM Bennet. The entire world is watching the summit for signs that America remains a strong and dependable ally. My full I24News interview can be heard on https://t.co/Esct6ds9c2
— Michael Oren (@DrMichaelOren) August 26, 2021
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Via Reuters with inputs from GVS