He is the first member of the Biden administration to visit since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government was sworn in late last month.
Top on the agenda is the alignment of Israel and the Biden administration’s position on Tehran’s global terror activity and strengthening nuclear capabilities, now that a revival of the 2015 Iran deal to curb its push for atomic weapons appears unlikely.
At a meeting earlier in the day with a bipartisan group of senators, Netanyahu said that a “credible military threat” was needed to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions as well as “economic and diplomatic pressure,” according to a statement put out by his office.
He told the senators he looked forward to “tightening cooperation in this regard.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who was in Washington last week, was at the meeting. As was Israel’s Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog and America’s Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also expected to visit this month, in advance of what could be a Netanyahu visit to the White House.
Tension between the US and Israeli government
But alongside the alignment between the two governments on Iran is growing tension over the new government’s policies with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The new government has promised to put in place policies that advance the annexation of portions of the West Bank, the expansion of settlements and the legalization of Israeli outposts.
At the United Nations Security Council in New York, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that her government opposed Israeli “annexation” as well as “settlement building and the legalization of outposts.” She also underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to the status quo at the Temple Mount, under whose terms the site is open to all visitors but only Muslims can worship.
“We continue to oppose unilateral actions that endanger the stability and the viability of a two-state solution,” Thomas Greenfield said, adding that this included actions that threaten “the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mount.”
KAN News also reported on Wednesday night that Israel has delayed discussions on a Jewish housing project in east Jerusalem, so as to avoid open conflict with the US during Sullivan’s visit.
Sullivan immediately met with President Isaac Herzog upon his arrival, with the two affirming the strong ties between Washington and Jerusalem.
Herzog welcomed Sullivan “as a great friend of Israel and a big expert on world affairs and security and Middle Eastern affairs.
“You are coming at the right time, as we meet so many challenges together. I welcome you wholeheartedly to our country,” Herzog said.
Sullivan gave Herzog personal regards from US President Joe Biden. He recalled Herzog’s visit to Washington in October and Biden’s visit to Israel over the summer. He told Herzog that Biden looked forward to hosting him again in Washington and “to welcoming you back soon, and also to coming back to Israel after his very successful trip last year.”