[to fix ‘the mistakes’] Israel’s Lapid seeks to mend fences with US in Blinken meeting

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome (AP)

Mina Aldroubi

The National  /  June 27, 2021

Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister and next in line for prime minister, met counterparts from Italy, Bahrain and the US in Rome on Sunday.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, pledged on Sunday to fix “the mistakes” made between his country and the US during the past few years.

Mr Lapid met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome in their first face-to-face meeting after the Israeli minister was sworn in two weeks ago.

“In the past few years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt and we will fix those mistakes together,” Mr Lapid said.

The Israeli official said there “is no relationship more important to Israel than the United States of America”.

“There is no friend more loyal to the United States than Israel,” he said.

The two ministers said they would discuss Israel’s normalization of relations with Gulf states.

“I look forward to working with you to widen the circle of peace in our region. That is the best way to bring stability and prosperity to the Middle East,” he told Mr Blinken.

On his side, Mr Blinken said Washington supports Israel’s normalization accords, but they cannot be a substitute for engaging in issues between Israelis and Palestinians.

The US official said he would speak to Mr Lapid about the need for reconstruction aid in the Gaza Strip, which was already impoverished and again ravaged in a conflict with Israel last month.

Washington has been pushing to uphold a fragile ceasefire that took effect on May 21 between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, after the worst fighting since 2014.

On Iran, Mr Lapid said Israel has serious reservations about the nuclear deal currently being discussed in Vienna.

Tehran and Washington have been holding indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

Tel Aviv has been calling for a more stern approach towards Iran.

Israel views Iran’s government as its primary enemy, due to its support of militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Mr Blinken hailed the remarks by Mr Lapid and said the US was committed to “working closely” with the new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a hardliner who leads a motley coalition united in the desire to oust Benjamin Netanyahu.

“As the closest of friends do, we will have occasional differences,” Mr Blinken said.

“We have the same objectives. Sometimes we differ on the tactics.”

Mina Aldroubi – Journalist, Abu Dhabi