Israeli PM's first meeting with Biden postponed due to Afghanistan violence

Naftali Bennett met Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin on Wednesday

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was scheduled to meet President Joe Biden on Thursday morning. AP
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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s highly anticipated meeting with US President Joe Biden on Thursday was postponed to Friday after a number of US soldiers were killed in explosions outside Kabul airport.

The White House announced late on Thursday that Mr Biden's meeting with Mr Bennett had been rescheduled for Friday.

Mr Biden has been in and out of huddles with his national security advisers as more than 10 US troops were believed to be killed in Afghanistan.

The Biden-Bennett summit on Friday will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.

US officials have showered the new Israeli prime minister with praise for his diverse governing coalition and the improvement of ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, particularly Egypt and Jordan.

In meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin this week, the administration reaffirmed to Mr Bennett its commitment to Israel’s security in the face of Iran's accelerating nuclear programme and its destabilising behaviour in the region.

“Iran must be held accountable for acts of aggression in the Middle East and in international waters,” Mr Austin said while hosting Mr Bennett at the Pentagon.

“The Department of Defence is also committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to ensure that Israel can defend itself against threats from Iran, its proxies and terrorist groups,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin enter the Pentagon. Getty Images / AFP

Mr Blinken said his meeting with Mr Bennett addressed “the deep concerns that we share about Iran and the role that it’s playing in the region, including its nuclear programme”.

The US secretary of state also praised Israel’s normalisation of ties with Arab countries following the Abraham Accords last year.

“The relationship that Israel is developing with other countries in the region — I think [it is] a very important development, and one that we look forward to helping to build on,” he said.

Mr Biden was the first leader to call Mr Bennett after he took office and this trip to Washington is the prime minister’s first official foreign visit.

Before flying to Washington on Tuesday, Mr Bennett called the US president “a true friend” of Israel.

“There is a new administration in the US and a new government in Israel, and I am bringing with me from Jerusalem a new spirit of cooperation.”

Updated: August 26, 2021, 7:07 PM