Sullivan To Visit Israel, Meet With Netanyahu, On Concerns Of Democratic Backsliding
On Thursday we took note of President Joe Biden's strained and slightly awkward congratulation message sent to newly sworn-in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his most hard-right wing and religious government in the nation's history.
In issuing the formal congratulations, Biden stressed that his administration will "oppose policies that endanger" the two-state solution or "contradict our mutual interests and values" - given Netanyahu's newly formed far-right government has vowed precisely to expand West Bank settlements, directly threatening the possibility of the kind of future two-state solution Washington says it's long sought.
On Friday it's been revealed the White House is planning to dispatch national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Israel after the start of the new year, in mid-January.
Israeli and US officials confirmed to Axios that Sullivan will hold talks with PM Netanyahu over his government's controversial policies, especially the most concerning ones which threaten to harm US-Israeli ties.
Listed among Sullivan and the White House's list of concerns is the potential for Israel's backsliding on democracy and human rights, given the new government plans to legalize Jewish outposts in the occupied West Bank.
According to Axios:
- U.S. concerns extend to policies that could harm Israeli democracy.
- Those include measures that would decrease the independence of Israel's judicial system, and challenge the rights of its Arab minority and the LGBTQ+ communities.
What's more is that a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken could soon follow the Sullivan trip. While high-ranking US officials have frequently visited Israel across US administrations, and Israel continues receiving $3.3 billion annually in foreign military aid from America, the hardline make-up of the new government has apparently sent the White House scrambling.
Netanyahu has sworn in Israel’s most far right government ever… he’ll lead a coalition including figures once considered fringe extremists— Secunder Kermani (@SecKermani) December 29, 2022
Key line in its mission statement: promise to expand settlements in the Occupied West Bank where violence has already been flaring pic.twitter.com/Gpva0fc5ds
Other issues expected to be focus US-Israel intense dialogue in the coming months will likely be Iran and its nuclear program, as well as normalization efforts with Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu is expected to get more hawkish on Iran, and could mull the possibility of preemptive strikes on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. As for the Saudis, the new prime minister has been vocal of late in wanting to normalize relations, with the Trump era Abraham Accords serving as the foundation.