Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden was postponed on Thursday to an as of yet undetermined time, due to the two bombings at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
The meeting, which was originally scheduled for Thursday evening Israel time, will take place Friday, a White House official told Reuters. As of press time, Bennett’s office said it still had not been told exactly when it would take place.
A political source said that the original time slot was “lousy” given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan; neither the administration nor the American public have much attention to spare for Israel given the circumstances.
Nevertheless, he added, the fact that both Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who held a lengthy meeting with Bennett on Wednesday, were willing to host the Israeli premier at all at such a time shows the importance they attribute to the visit. In contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Thursday that she was cancelling a planned trip to Israel this weekend due to the events in Afghanistan.
The White House announced the postponement of the Biden-Bennett meeting at the last minute, shortly before the meeting was supposed to take place. Israeli reporters were already in the White House briefing room when they were told to return to their hotel.
The postponement did not come as a surprise given the news of American deaths in Kabul. Moreover, he could not hold an introductory meeting with Bennett in front of the media while the American public was waiting for information about what was being done in Afghanistan.
But the indeterminate postponement left the Israeli delegation with major logistical challenges. If the meeting is postponed until on Friday, the delegation will need to reserve dozens of rooms for another three nights, to avoid violating Jewish law by traveling on the Sabbath.
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The delegation includes National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata; Bennett’s chief of staff, Tal Gan-Zvi; diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir; military secretary Avi Gil; cabinet secretary Shalom Shlomo and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Gilad Erdan.
The leaders were slated to discuss the Iranian nuclear agreement, the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on the Middle East and climate change.