J Street welcomes the first official meeting between President Biden and Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett today at the White House. We believe this visit represents an important opportunity, in the post-Trump and Netanyahu eras, to help ensure that the US-Israel relationship can be reset and strengthened in a manner consistent with democratic values and the long-term interests of both countries.
It’s clear that there is a very welcome interest from both the US administration and the Israeli government in working well together and finding numerous areas of common ground and close collaboration. At the same time, we believe it’s also critical for the Biden Administration to be transparent and firm in stating its disagreement with key aspects of Prime Minister Bennett’s policies and worldview.
We hope the President will make clear that a strong, enduring US-Israel relationship will require seriously addressing the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict and moving toward an end to occupation. To that end, we have urged the administration to ensure that issues related to the conflict and the occupation be central to the visit’s agenda – alongside important discussion of Iran and other key issues of regional concern.
This May’s appalling escalation in violence highlighted that the unresolved conflict and ever-deepening occupation are core challenges that continue to pose a serious threat to regional security and cause suffering for both peoples. Conditions on the ground in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank are unstable, unjust and untenable, and meaningful changes in policy and action are required to break a seemingly endless cycle of violence. The US can and should do much more to highlight and seriously address root causes of the conflict.
In particular, we hope that the Biden administration will make the following key points in meetings with their Israeli counterparts:
- The US expects Israel to take the steps necessary to allow a US Consulate serving Palestinians to reopen at its previous location in Jerusalem by year’s end.
- The US is deeply concerned by and firmly opposed to acts of de facto annexation taking place in occupied territory, including settlement construction, forced displacement and demolition of Palestinian communities and homes, and the growing frequency of incidents of deadly violence against Palestinian civilians. Consistent with US law and calls for increased accountability by Members of Congress, military equipment supplied by the United States or purchased with US aid may not be used in connection with such activities.
- Should the Palestinian government substantially reform its prisoners payments program to meet criteria set out in relevant US law, the US expects that Israel will not move to obstruct the resumption of US direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the reopening of the PLO General Delegation to the United States, or efforts to sunset outdated statutory constraints on the US-Palestinian relationship.
- The United States is fully committed to addressing threats posed by Iran and preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon, and believes that the best way to accomplish these goals is via negotiations and diplomacy.