US, Israel sign security pledge against Iran nukes
The leaders of the United States and Israel pledged on Thursday to deny Iran nuclear weaponry, including through the possible use of "all elements of national power" available to Washington, according to a joint statement.
The statement, signed in Jerusalem by US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, also reaffirms US support for Israel's military superiority in the region, including with future defense grants.
Before the leaders started a closed-door meeting in Biden's first trip to the Middle East as president, a US official told reporters the agreed declaration marked a "significant" pledge on joint security.
"It includes a commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and to address Iran's destabilising activities, particularly threats to Israel," said a Biden administration official, requesting anonymity.
Biden, who touched down in Israel on Wednesday, will hold bilateral talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before flying to Saudi Arabia.
Lapid, Israel's caretaker leader ahead of an election later this year, said they discussed "the Iranian threat".
"There will be no nuclear Iran. this is not only a threat to Israel, but to the world," he said.
According to the US official, the security declaration would reaffirm "unbreakable bonds between our countries and expanding on the long standing security relationship between the United States and Israel".
An Israeli official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the document was "going to be a living testimony to the unique quality, health, scope, depth and intimacy of the US-Israel relationship."
Israel is staunchly opposed to a nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015 and which Biden is trying to get back on track after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from the accord.
Biden said pulling out of the landmark agreement was a "gigantic mistake".
Iran was "closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before", the US president said in an interview aired Wednesday by Israel's Channel 12.
Asked whether the United States would use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Biden said: "If that was the last resort, yes."
(Reuters contributed to this report)