Saturday, January 28, 2023

(JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with a visiting bipartisan U.S. Senate delegation to discuss ways to expand and enhance the Abraham Accords.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D - Nevada) and Sen. James Lankford (R - Oklahoma) are leading the group that also includes Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D - New York), Michael Bennet (D - Colorado), Dan Sullivan (R - Alaska), Mark Kelly (D - Arizona) and Ted Budd (R - North Carolina).

The lawmakers previously visited Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, countries that, in addition to Sudan, normalized relations with Israel as part of the Trump administration-brokered agreements.

During Wednesday’s meeting, participants discussed the burgeoning partnerships forged by the deals and the potential to tighten the cooperation in all areas. They also discussed the importance of cross-party support in the U.S. Congress for the Abraham Accords and for opportunities to expand them.

Netanyahu also presented evidence regarding the Iranian threat and how it can be combated by fielding a credible military option and using economic and diplomatic pressure.

Also participating in the meeting were Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi and Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides.

Earlier Wednesday, Nides discussed the possibility of bringing Saudi Arabia into the fold, saying that it was possible but difficult.

“There is nothing that would make us happier if, at some point, Saudi Arabia will normalize ties with Israel. It would be great for both countries and the security in the region,” said Nides.

“I don’t think we’re there yet. Obviously, it’s a priority, and we will work to achieve that goal, but I’m under no illusion; this is complicated, and this is hard, but we will work collectively to achieve this in the future,” he added.

Nides also said that he has faith in Netanyahu and plans to work with his government.

“At the end of the day, we want to work with this democratically-elected government. As Netanyahu said many times, he is very much in charge and he has his hands on the wheel, and we will work with him to make sure that we keep that car on the road,” he said.

Wednesday’s meeting comes on the backdrop of a report that Rosen told Israeli officials that she and members of the delegation would not meet with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism Party) or National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit).

Foreign Ministry officials cited in the report said that the American delegation was anyway not slated to meet with the two ministers.

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