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Iran nuclear deal

Iran to be ‘big topic’ of talks between Israel’s PM, US President Biden: Official

“If anything, the end of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan frees up resources and attention, and ultimately, allows us to better support our partners like Israel,” the US official said.

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Iran and its proxies will be a “big topic of discussion” during this week’s meetings in Washington between Israel’s prime minister and US officials, senior Biden administration officials said Tuesday.

“Iran will be a big topic of discussion because Iran is a threat to Israel, and we’re 100 percent committed to the security of Israel. No ifs, ands, or buts,” one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on a phone call.

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Naftali Bennett is in Washington for his first official visit as prime minister under the Biden administration. He will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other top officials before meeting with President Joe Biden later this week.

Apart from reaffirming Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security, Bennett’s meeting with Biden will be a chance to exchange views on policy toward Iran, the US official said.

But the official was quick to say that the US was not deprioritizing the Middle East. The US has withdrawn from Afghanistan under Biden, in a manner that has been widely seen as a colossal embarrassment.

“If anything, the end of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan frees up resources and attention, and ultimately, allows us to better support our partners like Israel,” the official said.

The official criticized the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign and said Tehran’s nuclear program was accelerating from week to week as it “has just dramatically broken out of the box.”

“We … are committed to a diplomatic path. We think that is the best way to put a ceiling on [Iran’s nuclear] program and roll back the gains that it has made over recent years on the nuclear side,” the official said.

He added: “If that doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue.”

But Iran will not be the only topic of discussion, “particularly with the spirit of which this new [Israeli] government has approached some of the problems in the region,” the US official said while praising Bennett’s coalition government.

Praising Bennet’s government as a “truly, extraordinary coalition,” the senior Biden administration official told reporters that the Israeli government was “one of the most diverse coalitions in Israeli history.”

The official cited Biden’s call to Bennett two hours after the latter was sworn into office as a “very clear signal” of the US support for the Israeli premier.

Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu clashed with US Democrats during his final years in office, beginning with public criticism of former US President Barack Obama.

The rocky relationship was evident when Biden decided to hold off for weeks before calling Netanyahu after becoming US president.

Read more: Israel’s PM Bennett to present Iran plan in first White House visit