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With unrest in the West Bank, US and Israeli presidents focus on Iran

White House talks between US President Joe Biden and Israeli President Isaac Herzog have focused on Iran, the Israeli government said on Wednesday, as its military engaged in a crackdown on Palestinian groups in Israel. occupied West Bank.

In comments to reporters before the meeting in Washington, DC, the two leaders did not mention the Palestinians despite rising tensions and violence, especially in the West Bank city of Nablus, where six Palestinians were killed this week.

Instead, Herzog invoked the crackdown on anti-government protests in Iran while sitting next to Biden in the Oval Office.

“This is an example of how Iran crushes its own citizens while moving towards nuclear weapons and supplying lethal weapons that are killing innocent citizens in Ukraine,” Herzog said. “I think the Iranian challenge will be a big challenge to be discussed.”

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In a statement describing the talks, the White House said later Wednesday that Biden “emphasized the importance of taking steps to de-escalate the security situation in the West Bank.”

After the meeting, the Israeli president said in a statement that the two leaders discussed “mainly the issue of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

While Tehran denies seeking a nuclear weapon, Israel continues to oppose diplomatic efforts between the US and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that saw Iran scale back its nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions relief.

Israel, one of four countries not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is widely believed to possess a covert nuclear arsenal.

The Israeli president, who plays a largely ceremonial role, signaled on Wednesday that the United States and Israel will hold crucial legislative elections next month, saying the partnership between the two countries “transcends all political, opinion and party differences.”

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For his part, Biden reiterated pro-Israel statements that he has used repeatedly during his decades-long political career. “If there was no Israel, we would have to invent one,” he said before the meeting.

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He also stressed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel and highlighted a recent Washington-brokered deal to draw permanent maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon.

Advocates questioned why Biden, who had promised to put human rights at the center of US foreign policy, did not mention recent Israeli abuses against Palestinians in his comments to reporters before talks with Herzog.

“As the Israeli army invades Palestinian neighborhoods and brutally kills Palestinians, continuing Israel’s violent colonialism for decades, President Biden could not spare a single comment about the Palestinian people in his remarks to the media today,” Sana Siddiq, an advocate for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Al Jazeera in a statement.

“Your callous disregard for Palestinian human life as you approach apartheid Israel is shameful,” he said.

According to the White House statement, Biden emphasized his support for the two-state solution, saying he “underscored the need for continued action to improve the lives of Palestinians, which is critical to peace, security and prosperity.” in his conversations with Herzog. .

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Since taking office, the US president has pledged to deepen US military and diplomatic support for Israel.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration refrains from criticizing Israeli rights violations against Palestinians, including settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that would host a future Palestinian state.

The White House has instead focused on regional “integration,” promoting a vision of the Middle East where Arab countries cooperate militarily and economically with Israel to protect themselves from perceived common threats, namely Iran.

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On Wednesday, Herzog also mentioned Israel’s associations in the region before and after the meeting with Biden.

“We discussed the integration and inclusion of Israel in the region and the potential to do so many wonderful things with our neighbors in the various Arab states that surround us,” he said in a statement.

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The Israeli president also cited the upcoming COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt as an opportunity to move towards that goal.

“The challenge of climate change can serve as a common denominator for so many nations and also between Israel and the United States,” Herzog told reporters at the White House.

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