Netanyahu urged to ‘uphold democratic values’ by Biden in crunch meeting

The Israeli PM also said an ambitious US-backed deal to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia was possible


US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they meet on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 20, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden has warned Benjamin Netanyahu of the need to uphold "democratic values" during a crunch meeting in New York.

Biden reiterated his opposition to Netanyahu's far-right government's controversial judicial overhaul plan as well as his concern about Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.

Meeting for the first time since Netanyahu returned to power last year, both leaders signalled a desire to ease strains in their relationship, but Biden also made clear he was determined to discuss their differences.

He told the Israeli PM the importance of "upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including checks and balances."

Speaking on the side lines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the US president added: "We're going to talk about some tough issues.”

Biden also stressed to Netanyahu about developing a path to a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians and "ensuring that Iran never, never acquires a nuclear weapon."

The US president also told Netanyahu that "without Israel, there's not a Jew in the world who is secure.”

But the biggest issue on the meeting agenda was the US-led push to forge diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu told Biden: "Under your leadership as president, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

He added that such a peace would go a long way first to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu also said he would uphold democratic values, despite his proposed changes to Israel's court system.

The Israeli PM finally got his long-coveted meeting with the US president on Wednesday after a lengthy delay.

Netanyahu has been a frequent White House visitor over the years, and Israeli leaders are typically invited within weeks of starting their tenure. 

But the choice to host the meeting on the side lines of the UN General Assembly rather than in Washington have been widely interpreted as signs of US displeasure with Netanyahu's new government.

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