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‘The Prime Minister hasn’t changed his opinions, but there is a new spirit’

At the end of the first day of an official visit to the US capital, Arutz Sheva speak to an official in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s entourage.

The official stresses that this is a real working visit during which small details and resolutions will be discussed. “We came to work,” says the official, detailing four main goals that have been set:

1. Direct contact

The initial goal of the visit, the source clarifies, is to establish a direct link between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett and that ahead of the meeting at the White House on Thursday, the desire is “that it will reflect the deep connection between Israel and the United States.”

2. Iran

The main issue that came up on the first day of the visit and will also come up at the White House meeting is Iran.

“We wanted there to be an understanding of Prime Minister Bennett’s strategic plan on Iran,” the source says, clarifying that a great deal of attention was paid by Washington to the Israeli position.

“The basic position of the Prime Minister is that not only does he oppose a return to the agreement, but that there is no point in doing so,” he clarifies.

“The perception is that lifting the sanctions will give an economic boost that will only allow Iran to move forward despite the agreement.”

“The goal is for Iran to stay at least a year away from a breakthrough, and that should be permanent,” the source says. “Iran should be unable to reach nuclear weapons at all.”

3. Iron Dome

The source says that the issue of replenishing the Iron Dome systems has come up in the discussions and meetings.

“We’ve been told it’s going well with Congress and it’s very important,” he says, adding, “it’s a billion dollars.”

4. Exemption from visas

As was reported, significant progress has been made in adding Israel to the list of countries whose citizens can enter the United States without requiring visas.

The source in the Prime Minister’s entourage clarifies that there are many moves that need to be made to advance the issue and at this stage, despite years of declarations and good intentions, the matter has not come to fruition because there has been no directive on the part of the leadership to end the process.

“Today they received this directive from the Secretary of State and from our side there will also be an attempt to resolve this matter,” says the source. “There is a message and tribute from the current administration to the public in Israel.”

When asked by Arutz Sheva whether Israel would be flexible in the matter of the American demand to allow Palestinians with US citizenship to enter Israeli borders, the source replies that the issue will be resolved and that this challenge did not come up today as an obstacle to progress on the issue.

Cessation of violence – a condition for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip

Apart from the four main goals of the visit to the United States, the source also comments on the issue of dealing with terrorism from the Gaza Strip and settlement policy in Judea and Samaria.

The source clarifies that Prime Minister Bennett raised the issue of prisoners and missing persons in talks with senior administration officials.

The source also points out that the cessation of violence and terrorism from the Gaza Strip is a condition for Gaza’s reconstruction.

The issue of the establishment of a US consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinian Arab residents is defined by the source as part of the “soft disagreements” between Israel and the United States. “It is clear that this is an election promise for the United States,” he explains, “but it is clear that for us Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and we do not agree with the presence of another entity in this city.”

Construction in Judea and Samaria is also classified in the group of issues on which there are “soft disagreements”.

“It is clear that there are disputes, but it is also clear that we are not going for adventures – there is no annexation and no freeze,” says the source, explaining, “The formula of the government is to avoid flooding and exaggerating controversial matters – obviously there will be no annexation but it is clear that we will not stop building in the settlements.”

What is a ‘new spirit’?

The political source clarifies that Prime Minister Bennett is not coming to the US with a new policy and ideology.

“He is not coming here and saying he supports two states, he is not drastically changing his opinion.”

The source explains the phrase “new spirit” that we heard from the Prime Minister several times during the visit: “This is a holistic view, the same way he runs the entire broad government – focusing on things that are agreed upon and flooding soft disputes. There are issues on which we do not see eye to eye but we do not change the rules of the game and do not behave in an oppositional manner.”

Source: Yoni Kempinski – Arutz Sheva