(January 30, 2023 / JNS) The U.S.-Israel relationship is one of modern history’s great alliances, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We share common interests, which are growing by the day,” Netanyahu said. “We share common values; two strong democracies which will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies.” He called President Joe Biden, whom he has known for 40 years, “a true friend of Israel, a true champion of this alliance.”
Netanyahu said Israelis might not know how much Washington has helped Israel–in one crisis “in record time”–with missile defense. “You’ve also just helped us push back on the attempts to delegitimize Israel in the United Nations,” he said. “We’re grateful for that and for your continual friendship.”
Blinken called the meeting with Netanyahu “a very productive, very candid, and I think important discussion that covered a lot of issues.” He added that he had expressed his condolences for the victims of Friday’s terrorist shooting–which took place at a synagogue in Jerusalem and claimed seven lives and injured several–to Netanyahu.
The U.S. secretary added that Biden called Netanyahu immediately after the attack to underscore the steadfast support of the U.S. for Israel and its people. Blinken reaffirmed that message in his meeting with Netanyahu.
“In the context of this attack and escalating violence violence, it is important that the government and people of Israel know that America’s commitment to their security remains ironclad,” said Blinken.
Before meeting with Blinken, Israeli President Isaac Herzog expressed Israel’s gratitude to the U.S. secretary for Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ “condolences and strength in a very painful moment we had over the weekend where dear, beloved, innocent citizens of Israel were butchered simply for being Jews and Israelis.”
“I want to thank you for standing by with us in this battle against terror and hate,” he said.
Herzog added that he was aware of Blinken’s comments about internal Israeli situations. “The constitutional argument that has ensued in the Israeli public [is] something which I’m heavily devoted to and trying to resolve or lead into a path of an internal dialogue,” he said. “As you said correctly, this is an issue that requires a wide consensus, and it is an issue that many democracies debate on.”
Blinken—who previously said a military option remained on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran—reiterated to Netanyahu that the Islamic Republic remained a regional threat.
“Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Blinken. He and Netanyahu discussed ways in which to coordinate against Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region. Blinken also said Iran was providing drones to Russia, which it is using to “kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.”
“In turn, Russia is providing sophisticated weaponry to Iran,” Blinken said. “It’s a two-way street.”
He added that one of the most effective ways to ensure Israel’s security is to continue to build bridges in the region by deepening and broadening the Abraham Accords “and other normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states.” Blinken highlighted the first meeting of the Negev Forum working groups earlier this month.
“This was the largest gathering of Israeli and Arab officials since the 1991 Madrid Conference,” said Blinken, praising Netanyahu’s leadership for making significant progress for Israel’s integration in the region.
The U.S. secretary of state concluded with support for the two-state solution, which he said would achieve a permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“These efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. “As we advance Israel’s integration [in the region], we can do so in ways that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Blinken urged “all sides” to restore calm and de-escalate amidst recent tensions and also affirmed the U.S. support for the status quo on the Temple Mount.
“We continue to support upholding the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places,” Blinken said, “including the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. We’re grateful to the prime minister for his repeated expressions of support for that position.”
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