Vice President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Thursday morning, in Davos, Switzerland. During their brief meeting, the two discussed Middle East strategic security issues as well as energy issues.
“The meeting was friendly and cordial and was held in an excellent atmosphere,” said Netanyahu’s media adviser in a statement.
The White House said in a statement that their meeting “reaffirmed the unshakable U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.”
This meeting was a late addition to Biden’s schedule, and was the one of his five bilateral meetings Thursday. Other meetings were held with the leaders of Cyprus, Argentina and Iraq, plus a joint meeting with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Later Thursday, Netanyahu met with Secretary of State John Kerry. At their meeting, Kerry and Netanyahu tried to play down tensions that have flared between the United States and Israel recently over U.S. criticism of Israeli policy in Yehudah and Shomron.
Netanyahu’s office responded angrily to criticism of Israeli communities in Yehudah and Shomron raised on Monday in a speech by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, saying it was “unacceptable and untrue” as well as inappropriate at a time of heightened violence with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu brushed aside the concerns, saying “My biggest concern is having time to talk to my friend, John Kerry.”
Netanyahu showed Kerry the Palestinian incitement video, which he had already shown to other foreign ministers at the start of the week, in order to show that Palestinian incitement – by the leadership, in the media and in the education system – is still a very significant and decisive factor as an engine for terrorism, reported Netanyahu’s office.
In an interview with CNBC after the meeting, Kerry acknowledged strains in U.S. relations with Israel and “a difference of opinion” over the Iranian nuclear deal. He said the agreement with Iran made Israel safer.
“Of course I respect Israel’s perception of the threat Israel faces. We understand that. We disagreed on how we would manage it,” he said. “We don’t disagree there are threats, and a threat. We believe that … Israel was facing a country that is in opposition to Israel and Israel’s existence, that was moving toward a nuclear weapon and moving at a rate that was extremely disturbing.”
These meetings come less than a week after a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Iran that has put Israel’s government on edge.
Netanyahu has warned that the sanctions relief means Iran will have more money to spend funding terrorism in Israel and elsewhere. The U.S. has sought to soften Israel’s concerns by ramping up discussions on a new long-term agreement on U.S. military aid for Israel.