US President Joe Biden urged rapid efforts to reduce violence and tensions in the Occupied West Bank as he met, Wednesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Anadolu Agency reports.
Biden “emphasized the need to take immediate measures to improve the security and economic situation, maintain the viability of a two-state solution and promote a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said in a statement after the leaders met on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York.
“To that end, President Biden called on all parties to fulfil their commitments made during meetings held earlier this year in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to include refraining from further unilateral measures,” it added.
Biden further reiterated his concerns about “any fundamental changes to Israel’s democratic system, absent the broadest possible consensus,” the White House said in an apparent reference to Netanyahu and his far-right government’s efforts to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.
The President sat down with Netanyahu for the first time since the Israeli leader won re-election last year. Tensions between the allies have risen amid Biden’s public opposition to Netanyahu’s judicial efforts, which critics say would be a death knell to the country’s system of checks and balances.
The plan has been met with sweeping protests and strikes in Israel, but Netanyahu has marched on undeterred. Israel’s high court is now deliberating on challenges to the reform package.
But it has led to repeated delays in arranging a sit-down with Biden, and the decision to hold it on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York rather than the White House reflecting the stewing tensions.
Biden has invited Netanyahu to visit Washington before the year’s end “to continue direct collaboration on” a broad range of bilateral issues, according to the White House.
“President Biden reaffirmed the unbreakable bond between the two countries, which is based on the bedrock of shared democratic values, and the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security,” during the meeting Wednesday.
“They also consulted on progress toward establishing a more integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Middle East region, including through efforts to deepen and expand normalisation with countries in the region,” it added.