JERUSALEM — Vice President Biden arrived in Israel on Tuesday to patch up, again, relations between the Obama White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a very public and deeply partisan spat over the Iran nuclear deal last year.
The vice president will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday when the two will work to advance long-running talks between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office over a new multibillion-dollar, 10-year military-aid package.
The trip is also something of a last lap for Biden, who Israelis embrace as having been a stalwart friend during his many years in the Senate and the White House. As for President Obama? Israelis have been more “meh,” a sentiment stoked by Netanyahu’s aggressive opposition to Obama’s Iran deal.
Biden came briefly to Israel for the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2014. This trip is Biden’s first state visit to Israel since a diplomatic disaster in 2010, when Israel announced during his visit construction plans in the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem — the same settlements that successive U.S. administrations have branded as “illegitimate” and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
An ensuring telephone call between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu in 2010 lasted 45 minutes. For 43 of them, she talked and he listened — a rarity, according to people present during the conversation or briefed afterwards.
Israelis are promising nothing of the sort on this visit, where Biden will talk not only military aid and regional stability with Israel but will also sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose young people have unleashed a five-month wave of knife, gun and vehicular attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. On Thursday, Biden will meet King Abdullah II in Jordan.
The White House and Israeli defense establishment have been having high-level, closely guarded talks for months over the amount the United States will give Israel for military hardware and under what terms.
Israel is expected to get F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, spare parts, missiles and intelligence-gathering systems. A single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter costs about $110 million.
The United States is committed to guaranteeing that Israel maintains a “qualitative military edge” that allows it to defeat “any conventional threat while sustaining minimal casualties.”
Read more at The Washington Post