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PM meets with US national security adviser over Iran, West Bank construction

On COP26 sidelines, Bennett said to hold talks with Jake Sullivan amid disagreements over terror designation of Palestinian groups, settlement building

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R) (AP Photo)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (R) (AP Photo)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the sidelines of the of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Monday evening, with the two reportedly discussing issues including Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli settlement construction.

Army Radio reported Tuesday that the discussions lasted around 30 minutes and were “very serious.”

Sullivan came to Glasgow after a trip to Italy for the G20, where US President Joe Biden met with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. They expressed their “grave and growing concern” at Tehran’s activities, and the US said Sunday that its allies were in “lockstep” and were looking at “all options” if Iran were to abandon talks.

Bennett and Sullivan’s meeting in Glasgow was held against a backdrop of tensions between Jerusalem and Washington in recent weeks over Israel’s advancement of plans to build thousands of new settlement homes. Israel was said to have been taken by surprise at the forcefulness of US criticism on the matter.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz had assured his American counterparts in recent months that settlement building would largely be limited to areas within the so-called blocs closer to the Green Line, rather than isolated communities deep in the West Bank that further complicate plans to form a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. However, the US was dismayed when the location of some of the planned new settlement homes suggested Gantz had failed to deliver on his word.

Additionally, the US demanded an explanation after Gantz announced last month that six civil society groups were being designated as terror organizations, saying that they had effectively operated as an arm for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group in a move that sparked a swift backlash around the globe.

Construction work in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 28, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

According to Army Radio, criticism from the US over Israeli actions has been taking on a harsher tone in recent weeks after a period in which Bennett’s relatively new government was given leeway as it settled in and worked to pass the budget crucial to its survival.

Bennett is holding multiple high-level meetings on the sidelines of the climate summit in Scotland.

On Monday he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the NSO spyware scandal, with the two agreeing to continue to address the issue quietly and transparently, according to an Israeli official. An international investigation published in July said that one of Macron’s phone numbers and those of five French cabinet ministers were on the leaked list of potential targets. The NSO Group has denied that Macron was among the targets of its clients.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Among other regional issues, Bennett and Macron also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, and its continued enrichment of uranium.

Earlier in the day, Bennett met with Australian premier Scott Morrison, speaking about the Iran threat in addition to climate issues.

Bennett urged Morrison to ensure that Australia pushes for a rebuke of Iran at the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting in November. Australia is one of the 35 board members of the UN atomic agency for 2021-2022.

Bennett also brought up the importance of recognizing Hezbollah as a terror organization. Australia currently recognizes only the Hezbollah External Security Organization as a terrorist group, and not the entire organization.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) meets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Bennett also met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Italian premier Mario Draghi, as well as informal meetings with a number of other world leaders.

On Monday evening, Bennett attended a reception hosted by the UK’s Prince Charles, where he spoke with a number of leaders including Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, from left, chat as they attend an evening reception to mark the opening day of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, Pool)

On Tuesday, he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who extended an invitation for Bennett to visit India.

The prime minister is leading a delegation to the Glasgow meeting of government officials, nonprofit leaders, academics and others.

Bennett was slated to also meet with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Johnson, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

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