Biden, Bennett to Hold First White House Talks

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to visit the White House on Thursday for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden about Iran, security issues and the coronavirus pandemic.The meeting will be the first time the two leaders speak in person since Bennett became prime minister in June.“It’s a chance for the prime minister to hear directly from the president his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and self-defense, and supporting Israel’s defense needs,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters ahead of the meeting.The official said the impending end of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan will free more resources and attention for other priorities, including relations with Israel.A major focus of the talks will be Iran, both its nuclear program and what the official called the country’s “destabilizing activities in the region.”“Iran’s nuclear program has just dramatically broken out of the box, and it’s accelerating from week to week. This is a very serious problem, and the two leaders, I think, will have the opportunity to sit together and discuss what to do about it,” the U.S. official said.The United States and Iran have held several rounds of indirect talks about rejoining the 2015 international agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. That agreement came about amid concerns Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons, which it has denied.Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, and Iran subsequently took steps away from its commitments, including boosting its stockpiles of enriched uranium and enriching the material to higher levels of purity.”I will tell President Biden that it is time to stop the Iranians … not to give them a lifeline in the form of reentering into an expired nuclear deal,” Bennett said Sunday.

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