US ‘stands firmly’ with Israel amid terror spurt, Biden tells Bennett

Leaders talk by phone about importance of regional partnerships, as exemplified by Negev Summit, White House says, making no mention of Iran or Palestinians

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Right wing activists wave Israeli flags during a protest against Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, following a recent wave of violence, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. (AP/Oded Balilty)
Right wing activists wave Israeli flags during a protest against Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, following a recent wave of violence, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. (AP/Oded Balilty)

US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday, offering his condolences and expressing his support for Israel amid the recent spate of deadly terror attacks.

Biden “emphasized that the US stands firmly and resolutely with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel,” according to the US readout. Biden “offered all appropriate assistance to our Israeli allies as they confront threats to their citizens.”

Eleven people were killed in three separate attacks that took place within the span of a week in the towns of Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak.

“The leaders discussed the importance of regional partnerships, as exemplified by the Abraham Accords and the Negev Summit, in promoting security and improving the lives of people across the Middle East,” the White House statement said.

The Negev Summit brought together the foreign ministers of Israel, the US, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt in Sde Boker for talks on regional cooperation.

The gathering was the latest development in the Abraham Accords agreements brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 and saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

The Biden administration has sought to strengthen the existing accords with such multilateral forums, while also bringing Egypt and Jordan into the mix.

Closing their talks at the Negev Summit, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, left, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, and United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pose for a photograph Monday, March 28, 2022, in Sde Boker, Israel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Israel’s Prime Minister’s office later confirmed the call and said Bennett thanked Biden for his stance. It also said the two spoke about “Iran’s regional aggression” and other unspecified issues.

The White House statement made no mention of Iran, which is a prime Israeli concern and a primary point of discussion in talks between the sides. The US is said to be nearing an agreement with Iran on a joint return to compliance with a nuclear agreement that trades sanctions relief for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.

US President Joe Biden, right, meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, August 27, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Israel opposes the deal but has largely steered away from public spats with the Biden administration, seeking to avoid the same friction between Jerusalem and Washington as the last time the US sought to ink a deal with Iran.

The US statement also made no mention of the Palestinians, which typically are included in US talking points after meetings and calls with Israeli officials, as part of Washington’s support for ensuring “equal measures of equal measures of security, freedom, and prosperity” for both sides while promoting a two-state solution.

Even before the spate of terror attacks, Biden administration officials had expressed concerns that fighting could spiral in April due to the confluence of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter.

Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of a deadly terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

US and Israeli officials told The Times of Israel last month that Washington had asked Jerusalem to take steps to lower tensions and prevent an outbreak of violence.

Wednesday’s was the fourth known phone call held between the two leaders since Bennett took office last June. They last spoke in February, largely discussing the Iranian nuclear issue.

Biden hosted Bennett in the White House last August and the two spoke briefly during the COP climate summit in Glasgow last November.

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