Outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the White House on Monday at President Joe Biden’s invitation, becoming the first high-ranking Israeli official to visit the president in Washington.
“I just want to thank the president for being here, and for your dedication to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel,” Biden said of Rivlin ahead of their closed-door meeting.
Biden went on to say that the U.S. commitment to Israel is “ironclad.”
“It's something that I often say: If there weren't an Israel, we'd have to invent one,” he joked.
“I'm delighted, really delighted to be here, once again, in the White House, and with the President of the United States,” Rivlin said after Biden’s remarks. “Of course, I want to repeat what we know very well: Israel has no greater friend and ally than the United States of America."
Rivlin added that while the two countries may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, their shared values of “democracy” and “liberalism” connect Israel and the U.S. to one another.
The new governments of the two countries are seeking to turn the page on former President Donald Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close alliance aggravated partisan divisions within both countries.
Now, with Trump sidelined in Florida and Netanyahu leading the opposition, Biden is focused on pragmatic diplomacy rather than dramatic initiatives that risk fomenting opposition at home or distracting from other priorities.
Biden said his administration is “already working closely with the Israeli government that took office earlier this month.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government was sworn into office in mid-June, unseating longtime Netanyahu after four deadlocked elections.
Bennett, a religious ultranationalist, will serve as prime minister for two years, followed by the centrist Yair Lapid, a former journalist who now serves as the Israeli Foreign Minister.
President Biden “looks forward to hosting Prime Minister Bennett soon,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday morning, adding: “We're working on a date but don't have anything to preview at this point in time.”
Biden later said that his meeting with Bennett will come “very soon."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Lapid met in Rome on Sunday, the latter of whom will be Israel’s point man on repairs to the tattered relationship with Biden and the Democrats in Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.