President Joe Biden met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday morning at a hotel near the UN, bestowing him with a mixture of encouragement and criticism that both soothed and aggravated months-long tensions between the two men.
In granting Netanyahu an audience, Biden provided the embattled Israeli leader with a small public relations victory: It was their first in-person encounter since Netanyahu returned to office in December, and it ended Biden’s informal moratorium on contact with the Prime Minister.
Biden also hinted that Netanyahu might be invited to a more formal meeting at the White House within months — a major boost for the Prime Minister. “I hope we will see each other in Washington by the end of the year,” the President said. Israeli Prime Ministers are typically welcomed at the Oval Office within months of their election, and Netanyahu has yet to receive an invitation.
But Biden’s other comments before the meeting showed that the relationship still remains thorny. The President voiced gentle criticism of Netanyahu’s efforts to reduce the power of Israel’s Supreme Court. He also pushed Netanyahu to preserve the possibility of creating a Palestinian state, criticising moves by Tel Aviv to entrench Israeli control of the West Bank.
New York Times News Service