Netanyahu invited to meet Biden at White House to avoid downgrading relations

Senior American officials said the two leaders will meet during the annual opening of the UN General Assembly in September.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, senior American officials have confirmed to Yediot Ahronot.

The get-together will take place during the annual opening of the UN General Assembly in September.

Notwithstanding the currently strained bond between the two administrations, the meeting will specifically be in Washington rather than in New York because if relegated to the sidelines of the Assembly, it would be seen as a sign of a downgraded relationship between the allies, the report notes.

This report backs up Netanyahu’s claim that he received an invitation during a phone conversation with Biden last month. He has since said several times in interviews with American media that the meeting would “probably” take place in September, without stating a specific date.

The White House did not include such an invitation in its readout of the July call, which had focused on several matters, including the judicial reform controversy.

Biden’s stated opinion is that any legal overhaul must be implemented only after a wide national consensus has been reached, as doing otherwise could allegedly threaten Israel’s democratic character.

The confirmation also contrasts with the vague wordings used by White House spokespeople ever since, such as Karine Jean-Pierre saying during a daily briefing in late July, “The two have agreed to meet in the U.S. later this year. Their teams are working on the logistics and timing.”

Just four days ago, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, in answer to a reporter’s question during a phone briefing, “We still anticipate that the president will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu sometime in the latter part of this year in the fall, and [that] it’ll be somewhere in the United States.”

The judicial reform issue, on which Biden aligns with Israel’s Opposition, as well as recent permission granted by the Netanyahu government to build thousands of new homes in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria — something Biden has historically opposed, seeing it as a nail in the coffin of a “two-state solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, have resulted in deteriorating relations between the two administrations.

The American president has called Israel’s government the “most extreme” he has known in his 40 years in politics.