New Israeli government seeks to reset relationship with US

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(ROME) — Israel continues to have “serious reservations” about the Iran nuclear deal amid ongoing negotiations over the future of the agreements, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Sunday in his meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome.

In his first meeting with Blinken since taking office in Israel’s new government, Lapid pledged to communicate directly with the Biden administration and sought to reset a relationship between Washington after the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, who aligned himself closely with former President Donald Trump.

“In the past few years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt, and we will fix those mistakes together,” Lapid said. “In the past few days I spoke with a series of American leaders, Democrats and Republicans. I reminded them all that we share America’s most basic values — freedom, democracy, free markets, the constant search for peace.”

As the United States prepares to kick off a new round of negotiations over the prospect of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Lapid said “the way to discuss those disagreements is through direct and professional conversation, not in press conferences,” echoing the Biden administration’s own strategy of quiet, closed-door diplomacy.

Blinken reaffirmed the Biden administration’s “strong support” for the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries brokered by the Trump administration.

“As important as they are, as vital as they are, they are not a substitute for engaging on the issues between Israelis and Palestinians that need to be resolved,” he said.

Their hour-long meeting also focused on humanitarian aid to Gaza after the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the importance of advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Even though our administration is relatively new and his is extremely new, the foundation that we’re working on is one of an enduring partnership, relationship friendship between the United States and Israel,” Blinken said.

Departing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden in Washington this week. And the Biden administration has offered to dispatch senior officials to Israel to brief the new government on Iran nuclear negotiations.

On Sunday, Lapid offered Israel’s condolences to the families of those killed in the partial collapse of a 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida.

“Before I finish, I’d like to take this opportunity, and I know Mr. Secretary that you will join me, to send our prayers to all those affected by the collapse of the building in Miami,” Lapid said, according to the official transcript. “Our deepest condolences to the families of those killed in this terrible tragedy.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The Prime Minister told the Governor that the US is Israel’s greatest friend and that Israel stands by the US at this difficult time,” according to a statement from Bennett’s media adviser. “He added that everyone is praying for the wellbeing of the wounded and noted he has instructed all Israeli government agencies to render whatever assistance that may be requested.”

The Israeli Homefront Command Team is one of the teams sent to help with the massive search and rescue mission.

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