Biden-Bennett Meeting Likely to be Postponed

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett answering questions from the Opposition, at the Knesset on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington will probably be postponed until sometime after August, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday. Scheduling problems seemed to be the cause of the delay of their meeting, which had tentatively set for this month.

Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with incoming Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata in Washington on Monday.

“They discussed the upcoming visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett, and Mr. Sullivan conveyed that President [Joe] Biden looks forward to warmly welcoming Prime Minister Bennett to the White House soon,” the White House said in a statement.

It also said that along with a range of regional issues, “Sullivan stressed the importance of pursuing positive steps related to the Palestinians, which are critical to peace, security and prosperity.”

A senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel that they are on the same page with the White House.

“Our policy is first and foremost to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. Whatever Hamas receives, three times as much should be given to the PA,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Diplomatically, Israel wants the PA included in current Cairo-mediated negotiations with Hamas over terms for the reconstruction of Gaza after the fighting in May.

“We are saying that the PA needs to be part of this equation… because it is the moderate faction,” the official explained, and suggested that it be given the role of distributing Qatari humanitarian aid in Gaza, though that will require the agreement of Hamas and Qatar.

In an effort to prevent the rearmament of Hamas, Bennett’s government says, it will no longer allow the bimonthly influx of tens of millions of dollars in cash from Qatar. Instead, it is demanding a third party — such as the PA or the UN — be charged with administering the funds in order to keep out of the hands of Hamas military operations.

The senior official also noted the Sunday cabinet decision to increase the number of work permits Israel issues for Palestinians by 15,000. The workers’ incomes are an important source of funding for the Palestinian economy, which has been suffered by diminished international aid and the ravages of the pandemic.