By Andrea Shalal and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden, in a meeting on Monday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, said his commitment to Israel is “iron-clad” and he looks forward to meeting with new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett soon.
Biden, in his first meeting as president with a top Israeli official, also said Iran would not come to possess a nuclear weapon during his time in office.
“My commitment to Israel is … ironclad,” Biden told Rivlin at the start of their meeting in the Oval Office. He said the two officials would discuss a range of topics, including Iran.
“What I can say to you is that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” Biden said.
The meeting took place just weeks after Bennett took over as Israel’s new prime minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. U.S. officials are working on setting up a meeting between Biden and Bennett in the coming weeks.
“He’s going to invite the prime minister of Israel in the very next days in order to find a way to go forward and to exchange ideas,” Rivlin said of Biden after their meeting.
The get-together comes amid concerns in Israel and Arab capitals about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal because of fears a resumption of the accord may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons that would leave them vulnerable to Iranian intimidation or military threat.
U.S. attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, after then-President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018, have been slow to make progress with Tehran insisting the United States lift all economic sanctions.
A source familiar with the Biden-Rivlin meeting said Biden was expected to tell Rivlin that the United States and Israel share the same objective, that Iran not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and that Biden would stress U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza. The United States has pledged to resupply Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which got heavy usage during the Gaza conflict.
Rivlin is to leave office on July 7 after a seven-year term, with Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog taking over as Israeli president.
Rivlin is on his final foreign trip as president. He will meet officials at the United Nations in New York and congressional lawmakers in Washington.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)