Biden says diplomacy is still the best way to prevent Iran from getting a nuke, despite Israeli skepticism

“This is a vital security interest for Israel and the United States, and I would add also for the rest of the world,” Biden told a press conference in Jerusalem alongside the Israeli prime minister. Yair Lapid.

He added: “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this result. We will continue to work with Israel to counter other threats from Iran across the region, including support for terrorism and the ongoing ballistic missile program and the proliferation of weapons to terrorists and proxies like Hezbollah. . »

The president said he would convey this message to Saudi leaders during his trip to Saudi Arabia on Friday and said: “When it comes to Iran and convincing the Saudis and others that we mean what we say, we mean what we say”.

Biden has pushed for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018, as he faces growing pressure from key allies in the Middle East to develop a plan to contain Iran. Biden’s hosts in Israel oppose a new Iran nuclear deal and the previous version of the deal was unpopular there.

But hopes appear to be fading that the deal will materialize, and the president acknowledged on Thursday that the United States will not “wait forever” for a response from Iran’s leaders.

Alongside Biden at the press conference, Lapid rejected another nuclear deal as a way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“Words will not stop them, Mr. President. Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if it continues to develop its nuclear program, the free world will use force The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” Lapid said.

Biden said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 broadcast Wednesday that he would use force “as a last resort” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but did not specify what that meant.

Iran was a major topic of discussion during Biden and Lapid’s bilateral meeting on Thursday, and the two leaders signed a new joint statement on Thursday aimed at expanding security relations between their nations and countering what they described as efforts by Iran to destabilize the region. The president reiterated the United States’ “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security.

The president voiced support for the Abraham Accords, one of Trump’s legacy achievements that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries and continued the expansion of growing Arab-Israeli security and economic ties. He also highlighted U.S. support for expanding Israel’s integration in the region – a major theme of Biden’s four-day trip to the Middle East.

Biden also reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the press conference.

“Israel must remain an independent and democratic Jewish state, the ultimate guarantee and guarantor of the security of the Jewish people not only in Israel but throughout the world. I deeply believe that,” Biden said.

He continued, “And the best way to achieve that is still a two-state solution for two people, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land living side by side in peace and security. Both states respect full equal rights of their citizens, both enjoying equal measures of freedom and anything that takes us away from that outcome, I believe is all detrimental to Israel’s long-term security.”

The United States and Israel also launched a new high-level strategic dialogue on technology on Thursday, which officials say aims to strengthen cooperation between the two countries on pandemic preparedness, climate technology, artificial technology and other trusted technology ecosystems.

The president also took part in the first virtual meeting of the leaders of the “I2U2” group, which also includes Israel, India and the United Arab Emirates, on Thursday. The focus of Thursday’s meeting was food security as well as promoting clean energy, Biden said ahead of the meeting.

The United Arab Emirates has announced that it is investing $2 billion in agricultural parks in India to tackle the food security crisis.

“This unique grouping of countries aims to harness the dynamism of our societies and the entrepreneurial spirit to address some of the greatest challenges facing our world, with particular emphasis on joint investments and new initiatives in the areas of water, energy, transport, space, health and food security,” reads a joint statement by the leaders of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United Arab Emirates. -United.

Biden met with President Isaac Herzog of Israel at his residence and was expected to discuss Herzog’s diplomatic efforts to further integrate Israel into the region, officials said.

Herzog presented Biden with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor, and Biden said the award was “one of the highest honors of my career.”

The president will then meet former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders have a relationship that spans nearly four decades that began when Biden was a junior senator. All the same, it has not always been easy between the two men. Netanyahu made no secret of his contempt for former President Barack Obama — the sentiment, obviously, was mutual — and Biden was deeply embarrassed when a visit to Israel as vice president in 2010 coincided with a Israeli government announcement approving plans for new settlement houses.

“They, of course, go back many years and know each other well. And we are clear during this visit that the relationship between the United States and Israel is about countries, our strategic partnership as two states – not leaders. individuals,” one official said.

Biden also met with American athletes participating in the Maccabiah Games, an international Jewish and Israeli multi-sport event, and attended part of the opening ceremonies.

This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.

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