Blinken, Lapid meet in Rome amid reset U.S.-Israel relations

Lapid stated that he had spoken to both Democrats and Republicans since taking office, and had reminded all of them that America shares the most fundamental values, freedom, democracy, and the constant search for peace.Blinken pointed out that, even though both governments are young, the foundation they were working on was one of an enduring partner, a relationship, and friendship between the United States & Israel.This push involves focusing on smaller accomplishments, such as the shoring-up of the informal ceasefire that ended Gaza's war with Hamas rulers and replenishing Israels Iron Dome defence system. The delicate balance could be upset by a major push to revive long-dormant peace talks between Israel and Palestinians.Ilan Goldenberg, a Center for a New American Security security expert in the Middle East, stated that it is not a good idea for anyone to begin pursuing a major peace initiative. There are some things you can do quietly on the ground to improve the situation.This approach, which focuses on managing the conflict and not trying to solve it, may be able to bridge domestic divisions. It also perpetuates a status quo, which the Palestinians find increasingly oppressive as well as hopeless, and has fuelled countless cycles of unrest.American and Israeli diplomats will attempt to resolve differences without the public's knowledge, just as Biden did in quiet diplomacy when he privately asked Netanyahu to end the Israel-Hamas conflict before a truce was implemented May 21.Lapid stated that we believe the best way to resolve these disagreements is by having a professional and direct conversation and not through a press conference.Both governments will work together to save Israel's fragile governing coalition. This includes reducing the provocations that led to the 11-day war in Gaza that resulted in at least 254 Palestinian deaths and 13 Israeli deaths.The coalition that formed in Israel today shares little other than the conviction that Netanyahu must go. It is made up of eight parties each with veto power over decisions. Israel's government could collapse if one party leaves, and Netanyahu is just a few steps away.In the short-term, Lapid, a centrist will serve as Israel's point man in repairing the damaged relationship with Biden, and the Democrats. Although the party controls both the Houses of Congress, it is becoming more divided over the Mideast conflict. Progressive members are calling for greater pressure from the U.S.They are building mutual trust now, according to Michael Oren, an ex-ambassador of Israel to the United States under Netanyahu. It is possible that Israel could benefit from a shift in tone and substance, but it is not likely.Talks in Vienna to revive Iran's 2015 agreement with world powers to limit Tehrans capability to develop nuclear weapons are top of the agenda. Trump, supported by Netanyahu, pulled the U.S. from the agreement in 2018 and imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Biden pledged to expand and restore the agreement.Lapid stated that Israel has serious reservations about the Iran nuclear agreement being negotiated in Vienna. Israel promised to address these concerns privately. Netanyahu had publicly and loudly opposed the deal during negotiations by the Obama administration.Blinken admitted to the disagreement. He said that we may have occasional disagreements, as the best of friends do. We all have the same goal, sometimes we disagree on the tactics. However, we are clear and direct when this is the case, which I believe is exactly how it should be.Even though Israel is opposed to any new agreement, Israel's new government appears determined to try to influence the negotiations rather than stop them. Many Democrats were furious when Netanyahu condemned the extremely bad deal in front of a joint session Congress in 2015.His defiance of Obama and his close ties with Trump were widely viewed as having undermined traditional bipartisan U.S. support. While Israelis were open to Trump's diplomatic gifts to Netanyahu throughout the years, suspicions arose that he was trying keep Netanyahu in power through deadlocked elections or an ongoing corruption trial.Bennett, a right-leaning politician who ideologically aligns with Netanyahu's hawkish views, has toned down his rhetoric about Iran.Bennett stated Thursday that we will continue to communicate with our friends, persuade and discuss and share information and insight out of mutual respect. We will ultimately be responsible for our fate and that of others, Bennett said Thursday.Officials stated that a key strategy is to reduce tensions, or at the very least to not inflame them. Bennett, for example, is a religious nationalist and supports settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. He could lose his job if his dovish coalition partner is not supportive.Officials believe there will be limited settlement growth beyond what is known as natural growth. However, this vague term could still allow for significant construction and the advancement of major infrastructure projects that can pave the way to explosive future growth.Israeli media reported that the Israeli Defense Ministry proposed plans for 31 settlement construction projects, including a shopping mall and special needs school.Blinken spoke about the need to end the Israeli-Palestinian war, but didn't offer any timetable or strategy for a better future. Both Palestinians and Israelis should have equal opportunities and dignity.While the Biden administration supports the Trump-era Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel, several Arab countries, and Blinken stated that they do not replace engaging in the resolution of the Palestinian and Israeli issues.The Biden administration in the U.S. has made it clear that it wants to free the country from the Middle East conflict and instead focus on other issues, like climate change and competition against China.Biden invited outgoing Israeli President Reuven Nirlin to Washington on Monday. A group of House Democrats is planning a trip to Israel for the July 4th recess.Officials said that there is talk of Bennett and Lapid traveling together to Washington in the summer. Bennett will be the prime minister for the first two-years, with Lapid, who is the architect of the coalition, following.All officials spoke under the condition of anonymity in order to discuss logistics and administration plans, which are still being finalized.The reset appears to be working so far. However, the Israeli coalition is only two weeks old and significant challenges lie ahead.