Netanyahu, Biden ‘likely’ to meet in DC when PM goes to address Congress – White House

Administration official says two leaders have known each other for decades and will ‘likely see each other’ when premier’s in town, though there’s ‘nothing to announce’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/ Pool Photo via AP)
US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/ Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely meet with US President Joe Biden when the Israeli premier is in Washington toward the end of the month to address a joint session of Congress, the White House confirmed Tuesday.

“The president has known Prime Minister Netanyahu for three decades. They will likely see each other when the prime minister is here over the course of that week, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” a White House official told The Times of Israel, referring to the week Netanyahu will be in Washington for his July 24 Congressional address.

The meeting will come against the backdrop of another fraught point in ties between the two governments, sparked by a video Netanyahu issued last month in which he accused the Biden administration of withholding significant amounts of weapons from Israel.

The US has vehemently denied the claim, insisting that it has only delayed one shipment of heavy bombs it doesn’t want Israel using in densely populated parts of Gaza. The White House last week acknowledged that some bottlenecks had accumulated in the US weapon transfer system, but insisted that it wasn’t intentional and that they were being addressed following Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s visit to Washington.

The US credited Gallant’s “professional approach” in an apparent slight at Netanyahu, who blew the saga open with his video statement. Gallant, while in DC, stressed the importance of settling disputes behind closed doors. Netanyahu claimed he had tried to do so but was stonewalled by the administration.

Netanyahu last met Biden when the president traveled to Israel days after Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught. They also met two weeks before the attack, but the administration chose to hold the sit-down on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and not the White House.

US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, October 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

That visit, Biden’s remarks in support of Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’s attack, and the deployment of a pair of aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean — aimed at deterring additional adversaries from joining in the fight against Israel — earned the president significant accolades in Israel.

The US has continued to shield Israel at the UN and supply Israel with weapons — albeit less frequently than at the beginning of the war.

But frustration in Washington has grown since the start of the year over the civilian death toll in Gaza as a result of the IDF’s fighting; Israel’s efforts to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, the rate of which has kept the Strip on the brink of a humanitarian disaster; and the Netanyahu government’s failure to plan for the post-war management of Gaza, which the administration argues will either lead to an indefinite Israeli military occupation, Hamas’s remaining in power or a state of chaos that will eventually see the terror group revive itself.

The frustration saw the US shift its rhetoric toward Israel and begin to push more aggressively for an immediate ceasefire to bring an end to the war.

But in mid-April, Iran carried out a drone and missile strike against Israel to avenge an alleged IDF strike on a pair of senior Iranian generals.

The US led an international coalition, which included Saudi Arabia and Jordan, that joined Israel in intercepting the vast majority of the hundreds of drones and missiles fired by Iran.

US President Joe Biden and his team meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his team on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 20, 2023. (Avi Ohayon, GPO)

Biden highlighted the US response to the attack to defend his record in support of Israel during last week’s presidential debate against his predecessor Donald Trump.

But The New York Times reported earlier Tuesday that Biden had threatened to pull support for Israel if it carried out a significant retaliation against Iran.

“Let me be crystal clear… If you launch a big attack on Iran, you’re on your own,” Biden was quoted as having told Netanyahu in a call the paper described as a “lecture” following the successfully thwarted April 14 attack.

According to the account, Netanyahu pushed Biden hard during that call on the need to hit Iran back and avoid looking weak.

People look for salvageable items following an Israeli raid in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, June 29, 2024. (Eyad Baba/AFP)

“You do this, and I’m out,” Biden told Netanyahu. “Take the win.”

The war room vignette was part of a larger investigation by the paper examining Biden’s mental acuity, with the exchange used to illustrate times under high pressure that the 81-year-old president appears to be on the ball.

Most other accounts included in the report portray Biden as increasingly confused, frail and prone to mental gaffes.

Netanyahu’s trip to Washington will be his first since returning to the premiership in December 2022.

Biden has hesitated to embrace the prime minister, who formed a coalition with far-right lawmakers that have advanced a series of policies opposed by the US, including a highly controversial plan to radically overhaul the judiciary, which faced massive backlash in Israel and has been shelved since the outbreak of the war.

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