BEIRUT (9:15 P.M.) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval office on Friday, after the meeting was delayed by a day due to Thursday’s deadly bombing of the Kabul airport amid evacuation efforts.
As expected, PM Bennett in a White House press conference alongside Biden articulated Israel’s top priority as “we got to stop” Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. This kind of bellicose rhetoric from Israel’s leaders is nothing new, but it appears President Biden made his own ‘threat’, albeit indirectly.
“If diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,” Biden said to Bennett while speaking before White House reporters. Biden said this would be towards ensuring “Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” despite leaders in Tehran for years maintaining their program remains purely for domestic energy purposes, with the Ayatollah having consistently condemned nukes as ‘un-Islamic’ and immoral.
Bennett actually used the opportunity to invoke Thursday’s horrific suicide attack in Kabul which left 13 American troops dead, and killed at least 169 Afghans in what’s tragically become a steadily rising death toll. “These very days illustrate what the world would look like if a radical Islamic regime acquired a nuclear weapon, that that marriage would be a nuclear nightmare for the entire world,” Bennett said.
“Iran is the world’s number one exporter of terror, instability and human rights violations. And as we sit here right now, the Iranians are spinning their centrifuges… We got to stop it,” Bennett continued.
Bennett also apparently sought to assure Biden that Israel will continue “defend” itself without the need for direct American military assistance: “That’s our job. We will never outsource our security,” he said. “But we do thank you for the tools and the back you’ve been giving us and you’re giving us,” Bennett added in reference to the billions in foreign and military aid Washington sends Tel Aviv each year.
And yet it’s long been an ‘open secret’ that Israel behind the scenes has routinely lobbied past U.S. administrations for a more muscular military approach to Iran, particularly during the Netanyahu and Trump eras, where the allies jointly ramped up military action in places like Iraq and Syria.
White House reporters observed that Friday’s meeting was only supposed to last 25 minutes, but it ran up to nearly an hour.