Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday of “strong” ties with the United States ahead of a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, despite deep disagreement over the nuclear accord with Iran.
“This visit expresses the strong relations between Israel and our ally the US,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
“There are those who have predicted the collapse of these relations. It is not so. The relationship is strong in all areas, including in the face of the challenges that we are standing together against in our region.”
Biden is set to arrive on Tuesday for talks with Netanyahu as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Israel and the United States have been seeking to move past deep disagreement over the Iran nuclear accord signed in July, which Netanyahu strongly opposed, and work out a new 10-year defense aid package.
The current deal grants Israel some $3.1 billion annually, in addition to spending on other projects such as missile defense.
At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also hailed Jerusalem’s expanding diplomatic relations with other countries, particularly as a leader in development and industry, welcoming Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the country.
Israel, Netanyahu said, is not only an “asset today in the fight against radical Islam,” but also “captures opportunities for the future, especially in technology.”
Biden’s visit comes amid a five-month wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories that has killed 29 Israelis and 181 Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians who died in the violence were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities; others were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes or demonstrations.
The White House said on Friday that Biden would not be pursuing any major new peace initiatives during his visit.
US President Barack Obama has acknowledged that there will be no comprehensive agreement between Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office in January 2017.
His administration’s harsh criticism of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank has added to tensions between the two longstanding allies.
Biden is also expected to discuss the fight against the Islamic State group with Netanyahu.