Biden praises Israeli 'statecraft' on Lebanon deal during Herzog visit

Two leaders also discuss Iran security threats, violence in West Bank and Israel's integration with wider Middle East

US President Joe Biden meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. EPA
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday praised Israel's role in negotiating a historic maritime deal with Lebanon during President Isaac Herzog's visit to the White House.

"President Biden praised Israel's statecraft and their courage, and noted that the agreement will set the stage for a much more stable and prosperous well as being able to harness vital new energy sources for the world," said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

Lebanon and Israel ended a long-running dispute over their contested maritime borders this month, after breakthroughs in Washington-mediated negotiations.

US special envoy Amos Hochstein is expected to visit Lebanon to attend the ceremonial signing of the maritime agreement between the respective countries.

The White House also reaffirmed its commitment to Israel to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and encouraged its further integration into the wider Middle East, Mr Kirby said.

As Mr Herzog left the White House on Wednesday, he said that Iran was "crushing its own citizens, supplying Russia with lethal weapons that killed Ukrainians, and going forward with the nuclear programme".

The discussion comes a day after Mr Herzog's office claimed to share photo evidence to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of Russia using advanced Iranian drones in its attacks on Ukraine, the Times of Israel reported.

"I would be exposing more of the fact that Iranian weapons are used against innocent civilians in Ukraine,” Mr Herzog said on Tuesday.

US and EU officials have accused Russia of using Iranian drones to attack civilians and energy infrastructure in Ukraine.

The tightening of relations between Moscow and Tehran since the war in Ukraine began have further escalated international tension as Iran continues a violent crackdown against anti-regime protesters after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22.

The White House briefly addressed the week's deadly Israeli raids in West Bank's old city of Nablus.

Israeli police shot dead five Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in overnight raids while 20 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported.

"[Mr Biden] emphasised the importance of taking steps to de-escalate the security situation in West Bank and underscored that a negotiated two-state solution remains the best avenue to achieve a lasting peace," said Mr Kirby.

"He also underlined the need to take continued steps to improve the lives of Palestinians with peace, security and prosperity in the region."

Mr Biden also addressed a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and remarks, which have increasingly become a topic of US concern after rap artist Kanye West's string of hateful attacks on the Jewish community.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 10:45 PM