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Biden looking for positive Bennett meet amid Afghan crisis, but not at any cost

9 16 1

WASHINGTON — No matter how well Thursday’s White House meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett goes for US President Joe Biden, it is unlikely to overshadow the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan where thousands of civilians who assisted the US-led coalition over the past two decades face being left behind in the now Taliban-controlled territory.

Nonetheless, the sit-down presents an opportunity for Biden to boast a stable, reliable ally in the Middle East after the one the US sought to establish in Afghanistan collapsed in a matter of days, despite the exorbitant amount of time and money Washington had invested.

To achieve this, the president could be expected to take a more conciliatory approach, as the alternative would mean starting a public rift with Israel, further preventing him from focusing on the foreign policy issues on which he has placed a higher premium –combatting the growing influences of adversaries China and Russia.

At the same time, a senior US official cautioned against drawing the conclusion that Biden would be willing to entirely disregard differences with Bennett on Iran and the Palestinians.

“The president is going to want answers on some of these key issues, and it would be incorrect to assume they can simply be glossed over because [US] national attention is elsewhere,” the official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On the face of it, the stagnation of indirect talks between the US and Iran to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action gives Bennett and Biden one less issue to disagree on.

But a source familiar with the matter said growing assumptions in Israel that Biden has all but given up on the Iran nuclear deal are exaggerated and misguided.

“Biden is going to use the meeting to ask Bennett how Israel will react if there is a return to the JCPOA and how it will respond if there isn’t,” the source said. “He’s going to expect clear answers for both.”

While Bennett’s opposition to the multilateral accord, which trades sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, would have one assume that he’d prefer the latter scenario, the well-placed source speculated that Israel may find themselves in favor of a revived JCPOA when properly judging the alternative. Jerusalem isn’t a party to the deal regardless and would be able to continue covertly acting to sabotage Tehran’s efforts, all while the program is “kept........

© The Times of Israel

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