Naftali Bennett to meet with counterpart Mark Esper in Washington

The two are expected to discuss Iran, Trump's peace plan.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 27, 2019. (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN / REUTERS)
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 27, 2019.
(photo credit: ABIR SULTAN / REUTERS)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will make his first official visit in his role to the United States on Monday, meeting with his American counterpart Mark Esper in order to discuss threats posed by Iran and the proposed peace plan released last week.
During the visit, Bennett will receive a formal honor guard at the Pentagon and will then meet with Esper for the two’s first working meeting.
It is expected that the two will discuss regional security issues, including Iran’s continued aggression, as seen through its ongoing attempts to entrench itself in Syria and its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Israel has warned repeatedly about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as well as aspirations of regional hegemony.
Jerusalem has admitted to hundreds of airstrikes as part of its “war-between-wars” campaign, to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria, where they could easily act against the Jewish state.
A recent IDF intelligence assessment stated that if Iran continues its nuclear program at the rate it is at now, Tehran will have enough enriched uranium to produce one nuclear bomb by the end of the year, and a missile capable of carrying a nuclear bomb within the next two years.
The assessment said Iran is not currently interested in rapidly developing an atomic bomb but would rather see a return of all countries – especially the United States – to the nuclear agreement signed in 2015.
As part of his visit to Washington, Bennett is expected to meet with other senior US government officials, including members of Congress, Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer and Jewish community leaders in the city, in order to discuss Israel’s security policy in international media outlets.
Bennett will be traveling to Washington shortly after the release of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which has been rejected by the Palestinians, who have cut ties with the US and Israel, including those related to security.
“The minister is in ongoing discussion with the American government and has expressed his clear position on the opportunities and risks presented by the plan,” his office said.
Bennett, head of the right-wing, religious Yamina Party, said he and his party would not agree to transfer “a centimeter” of land to “the Arabs,” adding that Yamina existed to “protect the Land of Israel.”
Bennett said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes the “full and courageous step,” of annexing the West Bank, then Yamina would give him its full backing, adding that “the Land of Israel is more important than elections.
“We will not allow the government of Israel to recognize a Palestinian state in any situation,” he said.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.