President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he plans to welcome him in Washington by December, a move designed to ease tensions over a perceived snub of the right-wing leader who has had an uneasy relationship with the current U.S. administration.
The meeting of the leaders of the two longtime allies has been closely watched, given U.S. criticisms of the conservative Netanyahu government’s policy on such issues as judicial reform and its relations with the Palestinians.
“I hope we will see each other in Washington by the end of the year,” Mr. Biden said during a meeting on the sidelines of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Mr. Netanyahu, who came back to power at the end of 2022, has not received the traditional invitation for new Israeli leaders to the capital by the Biden White House, even though Mr. Biden and Congress hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog earlier this year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Israel’s statehood.
Mr. Biden in July extended an invitation to Mr. Netanyahu for a U.S. meeting.
Still, the pair still haven’t met up at the White House and were many miles away from it — in Manhattan — on Wednesday.
The Biden administration has been critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to overhaul Israel’s independent judiciary by what critics say is a plan to weaken its Supreme Court and power over its executive and legislative branches. Mr. Biden has also complained about Israel’s expansion of its settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians say they need for a future independent state.
But Mr. Biden struck a congenial tone with Mr. Netanyahu in public, even joking with his counterpart as the press was shooed out of the meeting.
“Surprised they haven’t asked me about the auto strike,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Netanyahu, referring to the current walkout by U.S. unions at the Big Three automakers. “They usually ask about things that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about.”
But Mr. Biden also said at the top of the meeting he was prepared to “discuss some of the hard issues, that is upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including the checks and balances in our systems.” He also said the two would talk about the Palestinian situation and their joint effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Mr. Biden earlier this month said he would nominate former Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, presenting an experienced Washington player to the Senate for confirmation. The delay in naming a new envoy to Israel had been another point of contention between the two governments.
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