WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said that the United States would have "other measures" to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons if diplomacy fails, after his first meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett since both leader assumed office.
The meeting, which had been slated for Thursday, was rescheduled after a suicide bomber in Kabul that claimed the lives of at least 92 people including 13 U.S. troops.
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Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, Biden said he discussed with Bennett “the threat from Iran and our commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”
"Iran is the world's number one exporter of terror, instability and human rights violations ... and we're going to stop them, we both agreed," Bennett said alongside Biden.
"I was happy to hear your clear words, that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons," Bennett told Biden. "We will try the diplomatic route, but there are other options if that doesn't work out."
“We're putting diplomacy first, and we'll see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we're ready to turn to other options,” Biden added
Bennett stressed that Israel is not asking – nor will it ever ask – that American soldiers defend it.
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"We will never outsource our security," Bennett added. "It's our responsibility to take care of our fate."
"These very days illustrated what the world would look like if a radical Islamic regime acquired a nuclear weapon, that marriage would be a nuclear nightmare for the entire world," Bennett said in reference to the deadly Kabul attack.
Addressing the Palestinian issue, the U.S. president said that "We’ll discuss ways to advance peace and security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians."
Bennett and Biden, who are slated to later hold a full-fledged work meeting with their aides, also addressed the coronavirus pandemic.
"The third COVID shot is safe and working," Bennett said, referring to the COVID booster shot that has been administered to almost 2 million Israelis. Biden said that Americans will start receiving the booster shot next month.
Initially, Biden broke the ice by taking Bennett for a cup of coffee in his private dining room, instead of the Oval Office. Bennett told the president how his decision to form the unity government was influenced by his fear of the increased polarization that would be caused by a fifth election. He also told him about how he prepared his wife and children for the criticism he would receive for the decision.
Afterwards, he spoke of his father, Jim Bennett, whom a memorial service in his honor Bennett attended on Zoom the same day, six years since his death.
The name of the former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, didn't come up.
Contrary to the rumors and criticism of Biden, the Israeli delegation discovered a sharp president who was well-informed on all the subjects that were presented to him. Biden, unsurprisingly, once again revealed himself as an unconditional and warm supporter of Israel. He urged Bennett to call him directly whenever he may need to.
Afterwards, in a press briefing with Israeli journalists, Bennett said that he and Biden had formed a very close and amicable relationship.
"I invited President [Biden] to Israel after we beat the delta variant. I thank the president and his entire team for the decision to hold the meeting and their attention and focus while America is going through such complicated times."
Bennett said that his meeting with Biden "was excellent. It felt like we've known each other for a long time. I found a leader who loves Israel, he knows exactly what he wants and is attentive to our needs."
Biden also told Israeli journalists that "President Biden as well as I are determined to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. I'm glad we're in agreement. We'll work in the coming days, weeks and months to develop our cooperation channels. There isn't much time and this issue is urgent."