US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard NidesOlivier Fitoussi/Flash90

The Biden Administration is continuing to pressure Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu not to appoint Religious Zionism party chairman Bezalel Smotrich as Defense Minister.

Channel 12 News reported that a meeting took place yesterday between Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, during which Nides told Netanyahu that "the appointment of the Minister of Defense should be made with care and consideration and in a way that takes into account the intimate relationship between Israel and the United States."

Also present at the meeting was former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who is a candidate for the position of foreign minister in the new government.

Nides did not mention Smotrich or Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir by name during his meeting with Netanyahu, but still conveyed the intended message in a diplomatic manner that the US expects Israel's next Defense Minister to be chosen based on the bigger picture rather than narrow political considerations.

Netanyahu's office confirmed the meeting but denied that this is what the ambassador told him. The US Embassy in Israel said: "We do not address the content of closed diplomatic conversations."

Smotrich, who leads the third-largest party in the Knesset and the second-largest in the upcoming government, is seeking to become either Defense Minister or Finance Minister.