Blinken to meet Israel’s new foreign minister in Rome

Berlin: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Israel’s new Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Italy over the weekend, a senior State Department official and Israel’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

They said the meeting would take place on Sunday in Rome but neither side offered any details about the agenda, which is likely to focus on Israel’s concerns about a possible US return to the Iran nuclear deal and Israel’s security more broadly.

It will be their first meeting since Lapid assumed his position after longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted.

The discussion comes as Israel’s new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett seeks to mend relations with US President Joe Biden’s administration.

The leaders have inherited a relationship that is at once imperiled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history and an engrained recognition that they need each other.

Bennett’s government says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the US for Israel that former President Donald Trump attempted to turn into a Republican monopoly.

Biden, meanwhile, is trying to pursue a more balanced approach on the Palestinian conflict and Iran by restoring ties with the Palestinians and entering into indirect negotiations on the nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from.

The relationship is critical to both countries. Israel has long regarded the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing while the US counts on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.