In a pivotal meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, President Joe Biden confronted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a range of pressing issues, including Israel's judicial reform and the treatment of Palestinians by the far-right Israeli government.
Biden emphasized the unwavering friendship between the U.S. and Israel, calling it "ironclad" and acknowledging Israel's essential role in ensuring the security of Jews worldwide. However, he did not shy away from addressing the growing tensions surrounding Netanyahu's government and its policies.
The U.S. President highlighted the importance of upholding democratic values, including checks and balances, in their partnership. He expressed the need to discuss a path towards a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians and to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.
Biden specifically pushed Netanyahu to seek a compromise regarding his proposed changes to the Israeli court system, a move that has sparked months of protests in Israel and raised concerns in Washington. While the senior Biden administration official did not provide details of Netanyahu's reaction, they emphasized that the Israeli leader understood the necessity of finding common ground.
Netanyahu, in response, assured Biden that he was actively pursuing a compromise. However, the Israeli leader has made similar assurances in the past, even as his government continued to advance its contentious judicial overhaul plan. This persistence has drawn criticism from opponents who question the sincerity of his negotiations.
The meeting marked the first face-to-face discussion between the two leaders since Netanyahu assumed office at the helm of a far-right government late last year. Relations have cooled in recent times, with Israel's increased construction in West Bank settlements and the ongoing judicial reform plan contributing to tensions between the U.S. and its long-standing ally.