Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Howard Kohr, CEO of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), on Wednesday during his first full day of a brief trip to Washington, D.C.
Bennett arrived in the United States on Tuesday; he is scheduled for a first-time meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday.
According to Israel’s government press office, Bennett thanked Kohr for the organization’s “steadfast support for the State of Israel,” saying he views the organization’s activities as “a leading and integral factor in strengthening Israel’s standing in the United States.”
Kohr wished Bennett success on his first diplomatic visit after they discussed diplomatic, security and economic challenges facing Israel and agreed to remain in close contact, according to the release.
Following the AIPAC meeting, Bennett met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, where the two discussed “a series of regional, diplomatic and security issues, especially the ways to block Iran’s regional aggression and the progress of its nuclear program,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“Bennett stressed that alongside the strategic alliance between the US and Israel, Israel will continue to insist on its right to maintain security supremacy in the Middle East and would continue to do everything necessary in this regard,” the statement added.
Austin said ahead of the meeting that the U.S. is “also committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to ensure that Israel can defend itself against threats from Iran, its proxies, and terrorist groups.”
The U.S. Defense Secretary also noted that the Pentagon is working closely with Congress to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system as well as consulting closely with efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Afterwards, Bennett met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. That meeting was pushed back by several hours after Blinken had to address developments in Afghanistan.
Noting Blinken’s hectic schedule, Bennett remarked that he appreciated Blinken taking the time to meet with him.
“I appreciate you taking time in pretty hectic days here in the States. It means a lot,” Bennett told Blinken in remarks to the press before a closed door meeting.
The Israeli leader reiterated his message that he brings a “new spirit” with him during his trip.
“I bring from Israel a new spirit, a spirit of folks who sometimes harbor different opinions but work together in cooperation, in good will, in a spirit of unity and we work hard to find common things that we do agree upon and move forward on it. It seems to be working,” Bennett said.
“We’re going to be talking about a bunch of issues, primarily how do we fend off and curtail Iran’s pursuit to dominate the region and its race to a nuclear weapon. We will also talk about regional stability and climate change, which is an issue for all of us.”
The Israeli leader is also expected to meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
At present, it remains unclear if Bennett will meet with other Jewish organizational leaders as part of his visit.