US, Israel to commit to stopping Iran nuclear ambitions

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US, Israel to commit to stopping Iran nuclear ambitions



US, Israel to commit to stopping Iran nuclear ambitions

Biden's first visit to the Middle East since taking office has taken him to Israel, before meetings in the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia [Amir Cohen/Reuters]

US President Biden and Israeli PM Lapid expected to sign joint declaration during meeting in Jerusalem.

United States President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid are set to reiterate their anti-Iran positions and sign a joint declaration committing to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The agreement is expected to be announced after a one-on-one meeting on Thursday morning in Jerusalem on the second day of Biden’s four-day Middle East tour.

The joint declaration is expected to also include a pledge by Washington to continue US military aid to Israel.

A record 10-year $38bn aid package was signed in 2016 under the administration of former US President Barack Obama, when Biden was vice president.

Thursday’s meeting will be followed by a convening of US and Israeli delegations, after which a joint press conference will take place.

Biden and Lapid are likely to face questions on Iran, Palestine and the killing of Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli army in May.

Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday on his first tour of the region since taking office in 2021.

Arriving on Air Force One at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Biden was warmly greeted by Israeli officials and, in a speech, described the US’s connection with the country as “bone-deep”.

“You don’t need to be a Jew to be a Zionist,” said Biden in his opening remarks. “The connection between the Israeli and American people is bone deep … I am proud to say that US relations with Israel are deeper and stronger than they have ever been.”

The US leader also reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but did not mention Palestinians by name.

In a speech, Lapid described Biden as a “great Zionist”.

“Your relationship with Israel has always been personal,” Lapid said, calling Biden “one of the best friends Israel has ever known”.

Biden will head to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday to briefly meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Small-scale protests are expected to take place in Bethlehem and Ramallah in opposition to Biden’s visit and US policies towards Palestine.

US-Palestinian ties have been strained recently by the killing on May 11 of Al Jazeera correspondent Abu Akleh.

The journalist was shot by Israeli forces while reporting on Israeli military raids in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

Despite the United Nations confirming witness testimony with its conclusion that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli fire, a US review of its citizen’s death only found that Israel was likely behind the killing, but that there was no evidence it was intentional.

Abu Akleh’s family has voiced “outrage” over the Biden administration’s “abject response” to her killing and accused the US of providing impunity for Israel.
The family sent a formal letter to Biden asking to meet with him during his trip.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Abu Akleh’s family on the phone on Wednesday and invited them for a meeting in Washington.

For the last stop on his trip, Biden will take an unprecedented direct flight from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi officials and to attend a summit of Gulf allies.

In an interview with the Israeli Channel 12 news outlet on Wednesday, Biden said that the normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel would “take time”.

Washington has been pushing for the two countries to formally normalise relations, but, while some agreements, such as allowing Israeli flights to fly over Saudi airspace, could occur, Riyadh has continued to stress that it will not recognise Israel until a Palestinian state is created.