- Israel and Saudi Arabia do not currently have official diplomatic relations.
- Speaking before the meeting with Biden, Netanyahu said that with the president’s guidance the countries “can forge a historic peace.”
- A senior White House official after the meeting stressed there is a long way to go on normalization discussions.
US President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as part of the UN summit and agreed to work on establishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
It was the first meeting between the two leaders since Netanyahu returned to power nine months ago. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not currently have formal diplomatic relations. The purpose of the chairman’s participation in the meeting was to establish a new relationship between the two leaders. Biden said it would be a “big deal.”
Netanyahu said in a speech before the meeting that he thought so.
“Mr. President, I believe that under your leadership we can create a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said. He continued: “I believe that such a peace will contribute greatly to our efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, to achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state, and to promote genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
A senior White House official told reporters after the meeting that the two leaders had a “very constructive, very open” conversation, but stressed that normalization discussions still have a long way to go. Relations between Biden and Netanyahu have been strained since the Israeli leader announced plans to reform the judiciary, weaken its authority and spark mass protests.
In his opening remarks before the meeting, Biden indicated that judicial reform would be on the list of topics discussed. “We’re going to discuss some difficult issues today, which is to keep democratic values at the heart of our partnership, including checks and balances in our system, and to maintain a path to a negotiated two-state solution and to ensure that Iran never, ever gets nuclear weapons,” Biden said. .
Netanyahu also addressed key issues in his opening address, reiterating Israel’s commitment to democratic values. “Mr. President, I want to repeat to you that one thing is certain, one thing will never change. That is Israel’s commitment to democracy,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to uphold the values that our two proud democracies hold dear.”
A White House statement after the meeting said Biden “reiterated his concern about any fundamental change in Israel’s democratic system because of the lack of the broadest possible consensus.”
Netanyahu has not visited the Oval Office since his re-election. Israeli prime ministers are usually invited to the White House during their first year in office. The White House confirmed in a statement after the meeting that Biden had extended an official invitation to Netanyahu to visit Washington, DC.