US in first meeting with Israel’s new FM amid Iran moves

Israeli alternate prime minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the first weekly cabinet meeting of the new government in Jerusalem last weekUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Israel’s new top diplomat Yair Lapid on Sunday, in the United States’ first face-to-face meeting with the freshly installed government that seeks a less combative approach with its main ally Washington.

Lapid, a centrist who delayed his own plans to be prime minister as he masterminded a coalition to unseat veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu, is flying to Rome to see Blinken, who arrives in Italy on Sunday on a three-nation tour of Europe.

The meeting comes as President Joe Biden’s administration moves ahead with fresh talks on reviving a 2015 accord with Iran — strongly opposed by Israel — in which Tehran drastically scaled back nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.

Biden and Blinken are also eager to preserve a fragile ceasefire that took effect on May 21 between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, after the worst fighting since 2014.

The bloodshed triggered some of the strongest criticism of Israel in memory in the US Congress, with some members of Biden’s Democratic Party accusing Netanyahu of excessive force and of triggering the crisis by backing far-right Jewish groups that want to change the delicate status quo in the holy city of Jerusalem.

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