Leaders across the political and military spectrum held talks on a wide range of topics during the first visit to Israel by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan since the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office on December 29th.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
The Israeli leader greeted the major official from the administration of US President Joe Biden in Jerusalem.
Saying he looked forward to exploring “the real opportunities that our two countries have to work towards a better future,” Sullivan once again conveyed the unwavering US commitment to Israel. “I bring greetings from President Biden, and as you know – his commitment to the State of Israel is bone deep and America’s commitment to Israel is ironclad,” he said, asserting that the unique bond “is rooted in shared history, shared interests and shared values. “
“I’ve known President Biden for 40 years as a great friend of Israel, and I know how much he trusts you in the matters of national security. And you should know that we see you as a trusted partner in matters of our shared security and of course, advancing peace,” said the Israeli Premier.
After noting that Sullivan arrived “at a special time” due to “acute challenges to our security and vast opportunities for peace,” Netanyahu expressed his conviction that “by working together we can both meet the challenges and realize the opportunities. That’s something that bolsters our extraordinary alliance but also can change the region and change history.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu underscored that the more Israel and the US work together, “the more we can realize the vast potential for our people, the region and the entire world.”
Prior to private talks, an expanded meeting was held with participation on the Israeli side by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Tzachi Braverman, National Security Advisor and National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi and Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog. Joining on the the American side were Deputy Assistant to President Biden and the National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk and US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides.
Both Netanyahu and Sullivan praised the importance of the strategic relationship between Israel and the US, as well as the need to deepen ties.
According to an Israeli government statement, discussion focused on joint efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear development and malign regional actions. The Prime Minister also expressed gratitude for President Biden’s commitment to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Premier also brought up the latest Palestinian moves in the international arena, calling them “an attack” that compelled Israel to respond.
They also discussed ways to expand the Abraham Accords’ circle of peace, with emphasis on a breakthrough regarding Saudi Arabia. Jerusalem is keen to normalize relations with Riyadh, and Washington is evidently stepping-up efforts to realize such a reality in part due to the drastically diminished plan to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Senior Saudi officials told Israel’s public KAN network that any such pact is predicated on concessions to the Palestinians by Israel, but that Riyadh would extend ten hands if Netanyahu extends his own hand in peace to the Palestinians. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be regarded “a traitor who sold out Jerusalem” in the Arab and Islamic worlds if relations were normalized in absence of advancement of the Palestinians, said the royal court affiliates.
A potential alliance with the Kingdom was also reportedly discussed at length during the US National Security Advisor’s meeting with his Israeli counterpart Hanegbi. The two NSA’s additionally discussed their countries’ strategic challenges and the great importance of continued cooperation between US and Israeli security agencies in dealing with them; and held a virtual meeting with their counterparts from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, respectively. The four declared their commitment to deepen the Abraham Accords and discussed practical steps to advance their joint interests in the region, said the government statement.
In earlier talks, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed his appreciation to the US administration for the ongoing commitment to ensuring the security of the State of Israel, and to Mr. Sullivan for his personal contribution to the powerful bond between the two allies. Their discussion focused on the Iranian threat as a global challenge, and the critical cooperation required in order to contend with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In this regard, they also explored strategies to deepen cooperation between the respective defense establishments.
Minister Gallant raised the importance of the Abraham Accords to maintaining regional security and stability via defense, technological and diplomatic cooperation and exchanges, while highlighting the importance of expanding the peace pacts to include new regional partners.
The Defense Minister’s meeting with the US NSA was attended by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD) Director General, IDF Chief of the General Staff, Head of the IDF’s Strategic Planning Directorate, Head of the IMoD Policy Bureau, and the Military Secretary to the Minister of Defense.