update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Senior US official: ‘Very constructive, very candid’ meeting between Biden and Netanyahu

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed concern about “settler violence” and “terrorists violence,” the official said.

U.S. President Joe Biden meets and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 20, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
U.S. President Joe Biden meets and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 20, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.

U.S. President Joe Biden held a “very constructive, very candid—ultimately, we hope productive—exchange” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior U.S. official told the pool in an impromptu briefing.

The pool report did not name the official, who claimed that the discussion was the sort “that really only President Joe Biden could have with Bibi Netanyahu.”

“The president said … Saudi Arabia was discussed at some depth, and I’m just not going to get into the details of that,” the official said. “But obviously, the need for stability in the West Bank, we are concerned about violence in the West Bank, concerned about settler violence, concerned about terrorists violence. There were some I think, very constructive ideas about the way forward.”

Palestinian normalization

“Normalization is a very complicated issue,” the official said. “Nobody has ever said this is right around the corner. We’ve worked on this for some time. We have been making some progress, but it’s typical. And there’s some ways to travel on this before we get there.”

A “move like this by Saudi Arabia will require a component dealing with the fundamental issue between Israelis and Palestinians,” the official said. “I thought they had a pretty constructive discussion about that.”

The official added: “I think there is a basic meeting of the minds on not only the importance of that issue but some of the contours of what would be required.”

White House invite?

“In terms of the president’s invitation to the prime minister for the end of the year, we have not obviously finalized dates or anything,” the official said.

The official added that part of the meeting between Biden and Netanyahu was “in a restricted session, so just the two of them, which is fairly standard, particularly with the president and prime minister.”

Position on judicial reform 

“I don’t want to speak for the Israeli leadership or the prime minister, but it is our sense that there is an understanding that there needs to be a way forward there that involves compromise,” the official said. “And again, “We’re hopeful that they can get there, and again, the president has made his views on this issue very clear, publicly and privately, and he did so again.”

Eye to eye on Saudi civilian nuclear program?

“Whatever is done regarding civil nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia, or anybody else, will meet stringent U.S. non-proliferation standards,” the official said.

On mutual defense

“I will say there is a security component to the deal. There are a number of components to the deal,” the official said. “A number of components that are fundamentally in the interests of the United States of America. That’s one reason we are obviously pursuing it but also for the potential global dimensions.”

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