US, Israel to Sign Security Pact, Discuss Countering Iran

U.S. President Joe Biden is meeting Thursday with Israeli leaders, with security issues, the war in Ukraine and U.S.-Israeli relations on the agenda as Biden makes his first trip to the Middle East since taking office.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters talks with caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid would feature the signing of a joint declaration that includes “a commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and to address Iran’s destabilizing activities, particularly threats to Israel.”

Israel was a major critic of the international agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and a group of world powers that restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Biden served as U.S. vice president when the agreement was signed, and it was his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018.

There have been recent efforts to try to bring both the U.S. and Iran back to the agreement, including indirect talks in Vienna.

The administration official said from the U.S. side, “the door is open to diplomacy.”

“If Iran wants to sign the deal that’s been negotiated in Vienna, we’ve been very clear we’re prepared to do that,” the official said. “At the same time, if they’re not, we’ll continue to increase our sanctions pressure. We’ll continue to increase Iran’s diplomatic isolation.”

The official said Biden and Lapid would also discuss “how to preserve prospects here for a two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians, something Biden has “believed in his entire life.”

Biden and Israeli leaders will be joined by leaders from India and the United Arab Emirates for a summit focused on food security and efforts to boost clean energy.

The senior administration official said the grouping, known as I2U2, would launch a $2 billion project addressing food security challenges with agricultural parks in India. The UAE is contributing funding to the project, with Israel providing technological help and the U.S. private sector also participating.

Biden is also meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, with the two expected to discuss Israel’s emerging relations with other countries in the region, including the UAE, Turkey and Jordan.

Following Thursday’s talks in Jerusalem, Biden is due to meet Friday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

In addition, the U.S. is set to announce what a senior administration official called a “significant funding package” for hospitals in East Jerusalem. Other planned announcements include those focusing on Palestinian economic development, such as developing 4G wireless networks in Gaza and the West Bank. 

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