Blinken invites Israel's Lapid to visit Washington

Blinken invites Lapid to Washington despite Israel's criticism of US' Afghanistan withdrawal
2 min read
08 September, 2021
Washington's top diplomat invited his Israeli counterpart to visit Washington after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid broke Israel's silence on the chaotic US pullout from Afghanistan on Wednesday, saying it wasn't done 'in the right manner'.
The invitation came in a phone call between the senior diplomats on Tuesday [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has invited Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to visit Washington after the latter openly criticised the chaotic manner of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The invitation came in a phone call between the senior diplomats, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.  

Price described it as a follow up to earlier conversations "following Prime Minister Bennett's recent visit" as well an opportunity to exchange greetings on Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year.

The pair discussed bilateral relations and Secretary Blinken invited his Israeli counterpart to visit Washington "soon", Price said. 

It comes after Lapid attempted to minimise the impact of his apparent criticism of the Afghan pull-out.

"The minister expressed his deep appreciation for the US effort in Afghanistan, especially with regard to the extraordinary evacuation operation," Lapid’s office said, according to a readout seen by The Times of Israel.

Lapid slammed the US withdrawal on Wednesday, telling reporters that it "was probably the right decision… that wasn't performed in the right manner".

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"I think the entire globe was concerned, and first and foremost the Americans themselves. It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen," Lapid said.

The statement stood at odds with Israel's silence over President Biden's order to withdraw from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation mission that followed the Taliban's takeover of the country.

Nearly 200 Afghans died, along with 13 US servicemen, in an IS-claimed suicide bombing outside Kabul airport which targeted those desperate to flee. Hundreds of children have been separated from their families amid the mass exodus, according to UNICEF.

Neither the US nor the Israeli account of Tuesday's phone call made any mention of long-standing issue of controversy between the staunch allies - Biden's imminent move to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, the diplomatic mission that serves Palestinians.

Instead, Lapid's office said Blinken commended Israel for easing pressure on the Gaza Strip, including the expansion of its fishing zone and easing access to the Palestinian enclave, which has suffered under a crippling Israeli siege for over a decade.