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Biden tells Israel President Rivlin U.S. will never permit Iran nuclear weapons

By Kyle Barnett & Daniel Uria
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Biden tells Israel President Rivlin U.S. will never permit Iran nuclear weapons
U.S. President Joe Biden pledged Monday that "Iran will never get a nuclear weapon" as he welcomed outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

June 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden pledged to never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as he welcomed outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House Monday.

During the meeting with Rivlin, Biden declared the United States would be steadfast against nuclearization in Iran after Israel and Palestinian militant Hamas were locked in deadly conflict for 11 days in May in Gaza.

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Hamas is an ally of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which in turn is aligned with Iran.

"What I can say to you: Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch," Biden said.

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Israel is concerned about Iran's power over Hezbollah and the consequences that could leave on the entire region after the conflict during which hundreds of people were killed.

Rivlin responded to Biden's pledge, saying "God bless you."

The meeting came as U.S. forces in Syria were struck by rocket fire and responded with "counter-battery artillery fire." The exchange came a day after U.S. forces carried out airstrikes targeting facilities run by Shiite militias operating in Iraq.

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"I directed last night's airstrikes targeting sites used by the Iranian-backed militia groups responsible for recent attacks on the U.S. personnel in Iraq," Biden said. "And I have that authority under Article 2. And even those up in the Hill who are reluctant to acknowledge that have acknowledged that's the case."

The U.S. government provided diplomatic and military support for Israel during the Gaza conflict.

Rivlin has been critical of the Palestinian Authority's decision to make a case to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and to the United Nations. He has said building trust between Israel and the Palestinians is a precondition for peace talks.

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Israel has uniformly opposed the United States returning to the Iran nuclear deal, a pact enacted in 2015 under former President Barack Obama that lifts Iranian sanctions in exchange for limits on Tehran's nuclear activities.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018, but Biden has said he intends to rejoin the agreement.

Rivlin, who visited the White House as part of his farewell tour, will exit the largely ceremonial office on July 9 after being elected in 2014 and will be succeeded by Isaac Herzog, who was elected earlier this month.

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"Seven years, for Israel, is enough," Rivlin said. "For the Americans, eight years could be a little bit longer. But for the Israelis, seven years, it's enough."

Biden, who served as vice president during the beginning of Rivlin's term, said he has "done incredibly well" as president and has been "a great friend."

"You did your best and it was as good as it could be," Biden said.

He added the United States has already been "working closely" with new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who was sworn in earlier this month after forming a coalition government that unseated long-time Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has bombed Hamas in retaliation multiple times since Bennett has taken office, despite a cease-fire agreement.

"I'm looking forward to hosting Prime Minister Bennett at the White House very soon," Biden said. "And the U.S. fully supports normalization of the relationship between Israel and Middle Eastern countries -- that you're making some headway on -- Africa as well."

Scenes from fighting in Israel, Gaza

Hamas militants parade through Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip during an anti-Israel rally on May 28. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

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