Israeli PM to visit Biden at White House

President Biden's first visit from a foreign leader since Afghanistan crisis began

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will hold talks with President Joe Biden in the White House on August 26, Mr Biden's spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"Prime Minister Bennett's visit will strengthen the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel, reflect the deep ties between our governments and our people, and underscore the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The close US-Israeli relationship hit a rocky patch when Mr Biden replaced Donald Trump in January.

The formation of a new government under Mr Bennett, following the downfall of key Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu, opened the door to a reset.

However, tensions remain, especially over Mr Biden's desire to revive a deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Tuesday that Iran is in the process of enriching uranium closer to weapons grade levels.

Ms Psaki said the two leaders would "discuss critical issues related to regional and global security, including Iran."

"The visit will also be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of working towards a more peaceful and secure future for the region," she added.

The country this week has seen the first rocket fired from Gaza since days of sustained rocket exchanges in May. Israel has also been launching air strikes against what it claims are Iran-linked sites in Syria and Lebanon this month, including the first strikes in south Lebanon since 2006.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Mr Biden in June in advance of the Bennett trip and said he had been "very much satisfied" by Biden's determination to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear power.

His trip will be Mr Biden's first meeting with a foreign leader following the fall of Kabul and Afghanistan to the Taliban during the US withdrawal from the country.

Updated: August 18th 2021, 7:10 PM