Bennett: I told Biden no 'three times' on Iran, US consulate reopening, settlements
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told leaders of a West Bank settler group that he rebuffed US President Joe Biden on Iranian nuclear talks, the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem, and discontent over Israeli settlement building.
"I told Biden 'no' three time," Bennett was quoted as saying during his meeting with the US president at the White House in August, according to Israeli site Zman Yisrael.
"Once on the Iranian issue - but I can’t tell you exactly about what - they requested something and I said 'no.' The second time was about the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, it won't happen. And the third time was about settlements."
He reassured the settlement umbrella movement that the construction of settlements would not stop or slow under his leadership, despite pressure by the Biden administration.
"We know what the Democrats are saying, the settlements are illegal and all that. They told me to build less. Guys, you know where I’m coming from. I'm committed to you, as it was, so shall it remain," Bennett was quoted as saying by sources.
There are now close to 300 settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank - considered illegal under international law - with more than 680,000 Israeli settlers living in them.
During a speech at the UN General Assembly last week, Biden reiterated his country’s commitment to a two-state solution, insisting that it is the only way to find peace in the region, despite the continued construction of illegal settlements and continued violence by Israeli forces against Palestinians.
Since becoming president, Biden has voiced willingness to fix ties with the Palestinian Authority damaged under former president Donald Trump, after the latter moved Washington's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Bennett and his party have made clear that they are strongly against establishing a Palestinian state and said it would not happen on their watch. They have also stood firmly against reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, which Israel claims to be wholly its capital.
Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Some Democrats Senators have previously stressed the need to reopen the consulate.
There is also a grave concern in Israel with regards to the indirect US-Iranian negotiations which seek to find an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme. Trump had scrapped the original deal.
Former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert claimed on Monday that Israel is without any conventional military capacity to hit and end for good Iran's nuclear activities, similar to what it has done in Syria and Iraq over the past four decades.