JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, talking days earlier than his first assembly with President Biden as Israel’s new chief, mentioned he would oppose American-led makes an attempt to reinstate a lapsed nuclear settlement with Iran and proceed Israel’s covert assaults on Iran’s nuclear program.
In an interview with The New York Occasions, his first with a global information group since succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu in June, he additionally mentioned he would broaden West Financial institution settlements that Mr. Biden opposes, declined to again American plans to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem and dominated out reaching a peace settlement with the Palestinians underneath his watch.
Whereas these insurance policies differed little in substance from these of his predecessor, Mr. Bennett mentioned he would use the assembly with Mr. Biden to attempt to reset the tone of Israel’s relationship with the USA, which was rocky between Mr. Netanyahu and Democratic administrations. He mentioned he would search widespread floor with the Biden administration on Iran, and promised to reach on the White Home with a brand new and constructive strategy to containing Iran’s nuclear program.
“I name it the good-will authorities,” he mentioned. “There’s a brand new dimension right here — developing with new methods to deal with issues, being very real looking, very pragmatic, and being cheap with buddies.”
Mr. Bennett mentioned he would current a brand new strategic imaginative and prescient on Iran, which he mentioned would come with strengthening ties with Arab international locations against Iran’s regional affect and nuclear ambitions, taking diplomatic and financial motion in opposition to Iran, and persevering with Israel’s clandestine assaults on Iran, together with what he referred to as “the gray-area stuff.”
“What we have to do, and what we’re doing, is forming a regional coalition of cheap Arab international locations, along with us, that can fend off and block this growth and this want for domination” by Iran, Mr. Bennett mentioned.
“Israel is right here,” he added. “We’re the exact anchor of stability, of willingness to do the job to maintain this space safer.”
In opposition to the backdrop of America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the set up of a brand new, hard-line president in Iran, Mr. Bennett’s allure offensive might present Mr. Biden with a minor international coverage laurel — the revitalization of a relationship with a key American ally after current setbacks on the world stage.
Nevertheless it might additionally present kindling for friction.
Mr. Bennett didn’t reveal the small print of his new imaginative and prescient for Iran, however the insurance policies he cited might simply as simply have been articulated by Mr. Netanyahu, if maybe extra combatively. Mr. Netanyahu vehemently opposed the 2015 nuclear settlement, generally known as the Joint Complete Plan of Motion, which he mentioned didn’t do sufficient to limit Iran’s long-term nuclear ambitions and failed to deal with Iran’s different destabilizing actions within the area, together with its help for proxy militias.
Mr. Netanyahu efficiently inspired President Trump to desert the deal. He additionally accelerated a long-running shadow warfare with Iran and sealed diplomatic agreements with 4 Arab international locations that after ostracized Israel — offers that he hoped would assist his battle in opposition to Iran.
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However Mr. Bennett’s constructive tone differs from that of Mr. Netanyahu, who had a powerful relationship with the Trump administration however a fraught one with the Democratic administrations that book-ended Mr. Trump’s tenure. In 2015, Mr. Netanyahu antagonized President Obama with a combative speech earlier than Congress that criticized the upcoming nuclear deal, and in 2010 he embarrassed Mr. Biden, then Mr. Obama’s vp, when his authorities introduced new settlement development in East Jerusalem shortly after Mr. Biden arrived in Israel on an official go to.
It took Mr. Biden practically a month after his inauguration to name Mr. Netanyahu, which some Israeli analysts took as a snub. In distinction, Mr. Biden referred to as Mr. Bennett simply two hours after the brand new Israeli chief had been sworn into workplace.
Mr. Bennett’s extra conciliatory strategy is a part of a wider effort by the brand new premier to point out that Israel has moved on from Mr. Netanyahu, who developed an more and more fractious relationship with congressional Democrats and polarized American Jews, an strategy that critics mentioned risked turning seven many years of stable American help for Israel right into a partisan situation.
Against this, Mr. Bennett heads a various governing coalition that he says goals to assuage Israel’s social and political divisions, sort out home coverage conundrums that went unaddressed throughout Mr. Netanyahu’s last years in energy and heal relations with the Biden administration and estranged Arab international locations, like Jordan.
“We could possibly be this lighthouse in a storm, if you’ll,” Mr. Bennett mentioned.
A former high-tech entrepreneur who spent components of his childhood in the USA and Canada and speaks fluent English, Mr. Bennett represents a brand new era in Israeli politics. The primary Israeli prime minister to put on a kippa, a Jewish skullcap, he has lengthy moved simply between the spiritual and secular worlds and says the talents required for constructing profitable start-ups equally apply in relation to rebooting the nation.
“It’s all about flexibility,” he mentioned. “It’s about responding quickly to new data and new developments.”
However on main points, the brand new Israel is so much just like the previous one.
A former settler chief who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, Mr. Bennett mentioned there could be no decision of the battle with the Palestinians for the foreseeable future. However he additionally mentioned that he wouldn’t advance his earlier plan, later endorsed then dropped by Mr. Netanyahu, to annex massive components of the occupied West Financial institution.
Peace talks is not going to occur partly as a result of the Palestinian management is fractured and rudderless, he mentioned. But in addition as a result of Mr. Bennett is resolutely against Palestinian sovereignty.
And on a sensible degree, any try to deal with the difficulty would break up his various coalition, which incorporates events that help Palestinian statehood and others opposed.
“This authorities is a authorities that can make dramatic breakthroughs within the economic system,” Mr. Bennett mentioned. “Its declare to fame is not going to be fixing the 130-year-old battle right here in Israel.”
He added: “This authorities will neither annex nor type a Palestinian state, everybody will get that. I’m prime minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now’s discovering the center floor — how we will give attention to what we agree upon.”
In Mr. Bennett’s view, most issues, together with the Palestinian battle, may be addressed by “economic system, economic system, economic system.” He intends to give attention to bottom-up, on-the-ground steps that he mentioned have been extra necessary than recycled political efforts doomed to failure.
However on the development of West Financial institution settlements and the blockade of Gaza, Mr. Bennett is choosing up the place Mr. Netanyahu left off.
The blockade will stay so long as Hamas, the militant group that guidelines the territory, continues to arm itself and hearth rockets at Israel, he mentioned. And he mentioned he could be ready to interact in one other warfare with Hamas even when it misplaced him the help of the 4 Arab lawmakers whose backing retains him in energy.
“I’ll do what’s essential to safe my folks,” Mr. Bennett mentioned. “I cannot and by no means contain political concerns in defense- and security-related choices.”
Mr. Bennett licensed a number of air raids on militant bases in Gaza on current nights, after arsonists in Gaza despatched incendiary balloons into southern Israel and a militant shot and critically wounded an Israeli soldier who had been firing on Palestinian rioters. These exchanges examined the delicate cease-fire that ended an 11-day warfare in Might, however which has but to be formalized.
Mr. Bennett mentioned his authorities would lengthen a longstanding Israeli coverage of increasing present settlements within the West Financial institution, which a lot of the world considers unlawful underneath worldwide regulation and an obstacle to the creation of a future Palestinian state within the occupied territories.
“Israel will proceed the usual coverage of pure progress,” Mr. Bennett mentioned.
He additionally declined to remark instantly on whether or not he would block the Biden administration’s efforts to reestablish a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Mr. Trump closed the consulate, folding its duties into the USA Embassy, which he moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
However Mr. Biden hopes to reopen the consulate to assist mend a relationship with the Palestinians that collapsed underneath Mr. Trump. Palestinians hope that East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967, will in the future type the capital of a Palestinian state. Mr. Bennett chafes at any gesture which may sign help for a future division of town.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Mr. Bennett mentioned. “It’s not the capital of different nations.”
And the prime minister batted away rights points that current polls recommend are of accelerating concern to liberal Jews in the USA. He rejected claims that Israel operates a coverage of apartheid within the West Financial institution, and condemned a current choice by the ice-cream maker, Ben & Jerry’s, to cease promoting ice cream within the occupied territories.
Over the course of an hourlong interview, Mr. Bennett was at his most engaged and passionate when speaking about extra technocratic subjects, like his current choice to supply Israelis with a 3rd dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Israel is battling a fourth wave of coronavirus infections regardless of having a world-leading vaccination program. Mr. Bennett is micromanaging the disaster, beginning every day by reviewing new international and Israeli information and analysis.
He pioneered the availability of booster photographs earlier than the apply was permitted even by American well being authorities, once more turning Israel right into a real-world take a look at case for vaccine efficacy.
“I discuss to, I’d say, three or 4 leaders around the globe about stuff each week,” Mr. Bennett mentioned. “The second Covid comes up, a 20-minute name turns into an hour-and-a-half name. As a result of Covid is the largest situation on each chief’s plate.”
Surrounded by biographies of nice leaders — together with Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion — Mr. Bennett portrayed himself as having ready all his life for this second of management.
However amid all of the discuss of a post-Netanyahu period, it was not lengthy earlier than the Israeli actuality hit residence. Mid-interview, an aide burst into Mr. Bennett’s workplace, asking us to go away. A home public relations disaster wanted the prime minister’s pressing consideration.
Mr. Bennett had spoken the earlier evening to the household of the soldier wounded within the current Gaza clashes, and at one level bungled the soldier’s title. One other politician had additionally referred to as the household and gotten all the small print proper, the soldier’s mom advised the Israeli information media that morning.
The politician’s title was Benjamin Netanyahu.