Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with US Vice President Joseph Biden in his official Jerusalem residence Monday evening following Ariel Sharon’s funeral, with the meeting focusing on both Iran and the Palestinian negotiations.
Biden assured Netanyahu that the United States is committed to enforcing its "sanctions architecture" against Iran even as world powers provide it with some relief in pursuit of a final nuclear deal.
In four hours of wide-ranging talks, the vice president briefed Netanyahu on an interim agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program and sought his views on efforts to reach a broader accord, a senior US official said.
"It is safe to say that the issue of ensuring the continued enforcement of the sanctions architecture is an important priority for us, is an important priority for Israel and was a subject of conversation," the official told reporters aboard Biden's plane on the flight back to Washington.
Echoing Obama, Biden also made clear to Netanyahu that Washington opposes a US congressional push for new sanctions during talks on a long-term deal with Iran, the official said.
The working dinner between Biden and Netanyahu, which lasted twice as long as scheduled, also focused on renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that have struggled to make headway under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
While Biden did not try to negotiate the "nitty-gritty" separating the two sides, the two leaders had a "strategic conversation" about how to achieve the goal of Israel and an eventual Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security, the official said.
However, Biden reiterated the US position that Israeli settlement expansion on occupied land is "not constructive" for peace efforts, the official said.
According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu told Biden that judging by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' recent comments, Abbas was not ready to make the decision necessary to continue negotiations with Israel.
Still, Iran tops the Israeli agenda. Israel fears that its arch-foe is seeking an atomic bomb, though Tehran denies this.
Washington has resisted Netanyahu's demands to broaden the scope of nuclear talks with Iran to other issues, but the US official said Biden's meeting in Jerusalem was not limited to the Iranian nuclear file.
"They spoke about Iran's ... destabilizing activities and support for terror, as well as the important implications of the election of President [Hassan] Rouhani and the activities of other actors in the Iranian system, and how the United States and Israel need to cooperate together to confront the variety of threats posed by Iran," the official said.
Biden and Netanyahu were scheduled to have a one-on-one meeting, following a meeting with top aides. The US side, in addition to Biden, included US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and the National Security Council’s director for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, Maher Bitar.
This was Biden’s first visit to Israel since March 2010, which was marred by an Israeli announcement at the time on the construction of new housing units in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, over the pre-1967 lines.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.