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US national security advisor, Israeli PM discuss joint efforts to stop Iran, expand peace with Israeli-Saudi normalization

US President Joe Biden’s top aide meets with Israeli President Herzog and opposition leader Yair Lapid amid a tumultuous week in Israeli politics

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Jan. 19, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan became the first Biden administration official to visit Israel since the government of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was sworn into office. 

Sullivan’s visit comes amid a tense time for the new government, after Israel’s High Court ruled to cancel the appointment of a leading government minister, and the emergence of mass protests against controversial reforms to Israel’s justice system. 

In a series of meetings with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, Sullivan discussed the new policies emerging from Jerusalem, a joint strategy to contain Iran and opportunities to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East. 

Sullivan met with Netanyahu on Thursday in Jerusalem to discuss joint efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran’s destabilizing actions in the region, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. 

Sullivan emphasized Biden’s commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Last week, the security advisor told reporters that efforts to revive the nuclear deal are “not a priority right now.”

“As you know, his commitment to the State of Israel is bone-deep and America’s commitment to Israel is ironclad. It’s a commitment that is rooted in shared history and shared interests and shared values,” Sullivan told Netanyahu before their private meeting. 

The next steps to deepen the 2020 Abraham Accords were also on the meeting’s agenda. The emphasis was to secure a breakthrough for normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu’s office said. 

“We have acute challenges to our security and vast opportunities for peace, Netanyahu told Sullivan. “I am convinced that by working together we can both meet the challenges and realize the opportunities. That’s something that bolsters our extraordinary alliance, but also can change the region and change history.” 

Reports in Israeli media last month claimed that Netanyahu is considering suspending his pledge to annex Judea and Samaria in exchange for a historic peace deal with the Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu also raised the subject of the latest Palestinian efforts against Israel at the United Nations, in which the Palestinian Authority prompted a probe by the Hague’s International Court of Justice into the legality of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, areas the Jewish state secured following the Six-Day War of 1967. 

Netanyahu stated that “such moves in the international arena are an attack on Israel and oblige us to respond.”

Israel’s response of sanctions against the P.A. drew condemnation from 90 countries this week, not including the U.S. 

Ahead of his arrival, Sullivan said in an interview with NPR that he intends to be “clear and direct” in his meetings with Israeli officials on the issues of U.S. support for the two-state solution and the status quo, which maintains restrictions on Jewish worship at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

Sullivan held meetings with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi. He is expected to meet with two leaders of the Israeli opposition, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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