President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Aug. 27 that the United States has “other options” if using diplomacy fails in efforts to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.
The bilateral meeting at the White House between the two leaders was delayed by one day after a deadly explosion at Kabul airport in Afghanistan caused the deaths of at least 92 people, among whom were 13 U.S. service members. Both Biden and Bennett expressed their condolences for the loss of American lives in Kabul.
The two leaders used their meeting to reaffirm U.S.–Israeli relations and discuss how to approach a nuclear threat from Iran.
Biden told reporters at the Oval Office that he and Bennett speak about the “commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”
“We’re putting diplomacy first and see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,” Biden said.
The president didn’t provide specifics regarding those other options.
“Iran is the world’s number one exporter of terror, instability, and human rights violations, and as we sit here right now, the Iranians are spinning their centrifuges in the plants in Fordow and we’ve got to stop them and we both agree,” Bennett told reporters.
He noted that Israel has developed a “comprehensive strategy” that involves two goals.
“The first goal is to stop Iran on its regional aggression and start rolling them back into the box. And the second is to permanently keep Iran away from ever being able to breakout a nuclear weapon,” Bennett said.
A White House readout of the meeting said that the two leaders “reviewed steps to deter and contain Iran’s dangerous regional behavior.” Both Biden and Bennett reaffirmed their commitment to “address all aspects of Israel’s security against Iran and other threats.”
“I was happy to hear your clear words that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Bennett told Biden. “You emphasized that you’ll try the diplomatic route but there’s other options if that doesn’t work out.”
Bennett also expressed gratitude for the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid Israel receives.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of our fate, but we do thank you for the tools … you’ve been giving us,” he said.
Biden had expressed “ironclad support for Israel’s security to self-defense” and “underscored his administration’s full support for replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome system,” according to the White House.
The two leaders briefly touched upon the conflict between Israel and Palestine. According to the White House readout, Biden said that “a negotiated two-state solution is the only viable path to achieving a lasting resolution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.”
Biden also “underscored the importance of steps to improve the lives of Palestinians and support greater economic opportunities for them.”
Bennett didn’t mention the Palestinians in his remarks.
Prior to the meeting, Bennett told The New York Times on Aug. 24 that his government “will neither annex [territory in the West Bank] nor form a Palestinian state.”
Separately, both leaders acknowledged that Israel’s relationship with countries Egypt and Jordan “remain crucial to regional stability,” and discussed ways to deepen Israel’s ties with nearby countries, including Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Biden also said that his administration would work to include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Israeli nationals to travel to the United States for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa, provided certain requirements are met.
Reuters contributed to this report.