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Netanyahu and Biden discuss Huwara shooting, judicial reform, Iran threat

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for efforts to reach a compromise on judicial reform and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 12, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 12, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday night updated U.S. President Joe Biden on the terrorist attack in Huwara in which an Israeli-American was seriously wounded.

The two leaders, who spoke via telephone, also discussed the Israeli government’s judicial reform plan and the Iranian threat, according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

David Stern and his wife were driving on Route 60 in the Arab town in Samaria when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on their vehicle. Stern, a former U.S. Marine, returned fire, hitting the terrorist, who was later caught by Israeli security forces. Stern, who was praised as a “hero” by Netanyahu, was in stable condition at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvak on Monday morning.

The Israeli premier told Biden during their conversation on Sunday that Israel would “continue to take action everywhere against terrorists and the architects of terrorism,” the statement said.

The attack in Huwara, the second in as many months, came as Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and U.S. officials met in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh with a view to reducing tensions ahead of Ramadan, which begins this week.

Biden “welcomed” the Egypt meeting and “reinforced the need for all sides to take urgent, collaborative steps to enhance security coordination, condemn all acts of terrorism, and maintain the viability of a two-state solution,” according to the White House.

According to a joint communique released after the summit, the parties agreed to nine points, including Israelis and Palestinians reaffirming “joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of three to six months.” Israel committed to “stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months, and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.”

Israelis and Palestinians also recommitted to prior agreements, “in particular, the legal right of the Palestinian National Authority to carry out the security responsibilities in Area (A) of the West Bank, in accordance with existing agreements, and will work together towards realizing this objective,” the statement continued. Both sides “agreed to develop a mechanism to curb and counter-violence, incitement and inflammatory statements and actions.”

The parties also agreed to “take the necessary steps towards improving the economic conditions of the Palestinian people,” to “significantly enhance the fiscal situation of the Palestinian National Authority” and to maintain the “historic status quo at the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, both in word and in practice.”

With respect to the Israeli government’s effort to reform the judiciary, Biden “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship, that democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support,” said the statement.

He furthermore offered support “for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” it added.

For his part, Netanyahu told the American president that “Israel was, and will remain, a strong and vibrant democracy.”

Finally, Biden expressed his “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the ongoing cooperation between [U.S. and Israeli] national security teams, including to counter all threats posed by Iran.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed in a report that its inspectors had found particles of uranium enriched to 83.7 percent at Iran’s underground nuclear site in Fordow.

In response, Netanyahu said that history has shown that in the absence of a credible military threat or actual military action, Iran will become a nuclear power.

“The longer you wait, the harder that becomes [to prevent]. We’ve waited very long. I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is not merely an Israeli interest; it’s an American interest; it’s in the interest of the entire world,” he said.

During their call, Netanyahu thanked Biden for his commitment to upholding Israel’s security.

The leaders agreed to stay in regular contact over the coming weeks.

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