The meeting came after tensions rose over Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to reform Israel’s judiciary system.
President Joe Biden met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in New York for the first time since the Israeli leader returned to office late last year. Both leaders discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the normalization of relations with Riyadh, during the meeting held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
President Biden opened the bilateral meeting, recalling how long he had known Mr. Netanyahu.
“You’ve heard me say many times that if there was no Israel, we’d have to invent one,” he said.
He added that both leaders would discuss “hard issues,” including defending “democratic values” and preserving the path to a negotiated two-state solution, a proposed framework for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon was also a priority at the meeting.
In March, President Biden said he wouldn’t invite Mr. Netanyahu to the White House in the near term because of his attempt to change Israel’s judiciary system.
“This is one of the most extremist members of cabinets that I’ve seen,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
The White House expressed concerns about Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to overhaul the country’s judiciary system early this year. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, approved legislation that repealed the “reasonableness doctrine,” which the Israeli Supreme Court had used to judge government policies. Critics argued that Mr. Netanyahu’s proposed reforms would damage the balance of power between government bodies and destabilize the country’s democracy.
“Even where we have some differences, my commitment to Israel, you know, is ironclad,” President Biden said during the bilateral meeting. “I think without Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world who is secure. Israel is essential.”
“I hope we will see each other in Washington by the end of the year,” Mr. Netanyahu told President Biden in his opening remarks.
Both leaders highlighted the shared aspirations to build a “more stable and prosperous Middle East” and the new economic corridor that was agreed to at the recent G20 Summit in New Delhi.
At the G20 summit early this month, the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for an infrastructure project that will connect India, the Middle East, and Europe. The project will create an economic corridor linked by a railway line and existing ports that run through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.
Israel and Saudi Arabia
During the bilateral meeting, President Biden expressed his hope for the success of efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, noting that such an idea would have been impossible a decade ago.
Mr. Netanyahu agreed with his sentiments about the new economic corridor and the prospect of normalizing relations with Riyadh.
“I think that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “And I think such a peace would go a long way for us to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state, and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Three years ago, Israel normalized ties with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in what is known as the Abraham Accords.
However, some feel that reaching an agreement with the Saudis will take years.
“While hopes are running increasingly high, a substantial agreement is likely to take years,” he added.