Despite his opposition to Washington’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, Bennett said he was “satisfied” with Biden’s statement as a sign of bridging the gap between the Israeli and American approaches to Tehran.
Speaking to reporters ahead of White House talks on Friday, Biden expressed his “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security.
“We will also discuss the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure that Iran never develops nuclear weapons,” Biden said.
“We prioritize diplomacy and see where it takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we are prepared to look to other options.
Bennett, like his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, was a vocal opponent of the multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.
Nonetheless, he welcomed Biden’s remarks, highlighting the US president’s reference to policies that are alternatives to diplomacy.
“I was happy to hear your clear words that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon and to stress that we will try the diplomatic route, but there are other options,” said the Israeli Prime Minister.
The two leaders were due to meet on Thursday, but their bilateral talks were postponed as Biden turned his attention to Afghanistan after a bombing outside Kabul airport killed around 175 people, including 13 American soldiers.
The White House said Biden spoke by phone with Bennett on Thursday to “thank him for his willingness to postpone their meeting in light of the terrorist attacks in Kabul.”
Iran appeared to be the main topic of bilateral talks on Friday.
The nuclear deal, signed in 2015, saw Iran cut back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions on its economy.
Former President Donald Trump rescinded the deal in 2018 and launched a campaign of maximum sanctions pressure against Iran.
Tehran retaliated by relaxing its commitments to the pact, including increasing uranium enrichment levels, thereby shortening the time it takes to develop a nuclear weapon.
Iranian leaders stress that they seek nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and do not seek to acquire nuclear weapons. Critics of Israel often point out that the country has its own nuclear arsenal and, unlike Iran, it is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Bennett on Friday called Iran the top exporter of “terror, instability and human rights violations.”
“We have developed a comprehensive strategy which we are going to talk about with two objectives,” he said.
“The first objective is to stop Iran in its regional aggression and start bringing it back to the box. And the second is to permanently prevent Iran from being able to bring out nuclear weapons. “
As a candidate, Biden promised to restore the deal. But six rounds of collateral talks with the Iranian government in Vienna failed to revert to the deal.
Talks have been suspended since June with the election of conservative President Ebrahim Raisi, whose cabinet was approved by parliament on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Washington said it was still seeking a return to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We have made it clear that it remains in our national interest to seek a mutual return to JCPOA compliance,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
No mention of Palestinians
Bennett, who has long opposed the creation of a Palestinian state, has not once mentioned Palestine or the Palestinians. He said earlier this week that he would not restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
A former settler himself, he also ruled out a freeze on settlement activities.
“This government will not annex or form a Palestinian state,” Bennett told The New York Times before arriving in Washington, DC.
For his part, Biden said relations with the Palestinians would be on the meeting’s agenda.
“We will also discuss ways to advance peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians,” the US president said.
Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center Washington DC, a think tank, said that failure to mention the Palestinians shows that the Palestinian issue is not on Bennett’s political or moral radar.
“He made it very clear before leaving his country that he was against a two-state solution; he is against a Palestinian state; he is against freezing settlements – three issues that are integral to Biden’s approach to the Palestinians, ”Jahshan told Al Jazeera.
While some Palestinian advocates may have hoped for pressure from Biden against Bennett, Jahshan said, the administration has its plate full with other priorities, primarily Afghanistan.
“Some people were hoping that during this visit there would be some serious give and take. But again, Afghanistan came to the rescue and the agenda changed; it has been diluted, ”he said.