By Cnaan Liphshiz
Ahead of his first presidential visit to Israel, Joe Biden congratulated Yair Lapid on becoming prime minister on Thursday, following the resignation of his predecessor Naftali Bennett.
“Congratulations to @YairLapid, Israel’s new Prime Minister, and thank you to Alternate Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett for your friendship over the past year. I look forward to seeing you both in July to celebrate the unbreakable U.S.-Israel partnership,” Biden wrote on Twitter shortly after Lapid assumed the premiership.
Biden is scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank for two days on July 13 as part of a regional visit that will also include a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Bennett, a hawkish politician who supports expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan, last month announced that he is stepping down after a year in power because of his narrow parliamentary majority’s difficulty to govern. Lapid, a centrist who had served under Bennett as foreign minister, will become the interim premier until the Nov. 1 elections thanks to a clause in the pair’s coalition agreement reached last year.
Lapid tweeted in response: “The ties between Israel and the United States are unbreakable. They are based on deep foundations of shared values and a common vision for the future. I look forward to welcoming you to Israel and strengthening the unique alliance between us.”
Bennett, who first met Biden in August when the president hosted Bennett at the White House, also replied on Twitter, writing: “Thank you, Joe. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon, here in our eternal capital Jerusalem. You’re a true friend of the State of Israel.”
Lapid and Biden have met in the past, including in 2013 when Biden was vice president under Barack Obama and Lapid was visiting Washington D.C. in his position as Israel’s finance minister.
Lapid, who aligns with Bennett on some issues, such as opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, has been more vocally critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has also stated that he supports a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians but has said that there is “no current plan” for one.
During a press conference Thursday, Biden said that his upcoming visit is meant in part to “deepen Israel’s integration in the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do and which is good — good for peace and good for Israeli security.”
For this reason, “Israeli leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi [Arabia],” Biden added.