Heading home, Bennett says all goals ‘achieved and surpassed’ during US trip

Premier touts progress on Iran, visa waivers for Israelis; report says leaders agreed to disagree on settlement construction, Blinken opposes linking Gaza aid to return of captives

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett boards a plane at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington on August 29, 2021. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

WASHINGTON — Departing the US in the early hours of Sunday morning, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touted his “warm” and “successful” meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday, saying all of his goals had been achieved during his trip.

“We’re about to take off from a successful visit to Washington — the peak of which was meeting Biden,” Bennett said in a statement shortly before leaving the US capital. “We had a particularly warm and helpful meeting. Biden and I have developed a direct and personal relationship built on trust.”

Bennett and Biden met in the White House on Friday, after the meeting was delayed by 24 hours due to the deadly bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday, which killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel.

Following the two leaders’ 50-minute meeting, Biden reiterated the US “commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon… We’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”

Departing on Sunday, Bennett said that he had “achieved and surpassed all the goals we set for ourselves for the meeting. We agreed on joint strategic cooperation to halt Iran’s nuclear race.”

He also noted advances toward Israel joining the US visa waiver program: “For the first time, Biden instructed to move forward and close the deal as quickly as possible,” said Bennett. The prime minister said he wanted to “thank Biden for the very warm welcome.”

He also addressed the IDF strikes on Gaza overnight in response to violent border riots and multiple incendiary balloon attacks. “As I have said: We will operate in Gaza according to our vested interests,” he said. “The responsibility [for activities] in Gaza has been and continues to be Hamas.”

Palestinian protesters burn tires following a demonstration along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City on August 28, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)