Blinken speaks with Lapid, vows support for Israel amid political turmoil

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke on the phone Tuesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who promised strong support for Israel as it heads to its fifth election in under four years.

Tuesday’s call was the first between the top diplomats since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid announced on Monday that they planned to disband their own government.

Once the Knesset’s disbandment is finalized, Lapid will assume the premiership at least until elections, which will likely take place in the fall.

In his call with Lapid, Blinken “underscored our respect for democratic processes and reiterated our unwavering commitment to the strong US-Israel strategic relationship,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Blinken “emphasized our continuing close coordination on regional and global issues,” he said.

Blinken also confirmed again that US President Joe Biden still plans to visit Israel next month, which US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides previously said on Monday. If the legislative process moves forward as expected, Lapid will be prime minister when Biden lands in Israel on July 13 for his first visit as president.

Lapid’s office said he and Blinken spoke about Biden’s visit, saying it was “an opportunity to emphasize the president’s deep personal connection to Israel, to America’s commitment to Israel’s security, and to strengthening Israel in the region.”

“The visit has significant implications for the region and for the struggle against Iran, and great potential to significantly upgrade regional stability and security,” Lapid’s office said in a statement.

Lapid said he also updated Blinken on his upcoming trip to Turkey “and on the joint activity with the Turkish government against terrorism.”

Price told reporters earlier on Tuesday, “The strength of our relationship does not depend on who sits in the Oval Office. It doesn’t depend on who sits in the prime minister’s chair in Israel.” The snap election could see a comeback by Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a tense relationship with former US president Barack Obama, under whom Biden was vice president.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel last week, before the announcement of the Knesset’s disbandment, that while in Israel Biden would meet with Bennett, Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

It has also been traditional for US presidents to meet with the head of the opposition, particularly during an election cycle. This would mean a potential sit-down between Biden and Netanyahu, who have had a long relationship, albeit with no shortage of political disputes.

Biden is scheduled to spend two days in Israel and the West Bank before stopping in Saudi Arabia to participate in the annual meeting of the GCC+3 with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan.

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