Biden, Netanyahu finally make call
White House allays fears of tension with messages of solidarity with Israel
Published: Feb 18, 2021 06:03 PM

US President Joe Biden. Photo: VCG

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid any tensions to rest Wednesday by finally holding their first phone call since the change of administration in Washington.

Netanyahu was one of the last foreign leaders to get a call from Biden, who took office on January 20, despite Israel's special relationship with the US. But both sides stressed their close ties during the call.

The White House said Biden registered "support" for a series of agreements brokered by his predecessor Donald Trump on normalizing relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries.

And Biden "affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel's security and conveyed his intent to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel partnership, including our strong defense cooperation," a White House statement said.

In a statement, Netanyahu's media advisor called the talk "very warm and friendly" and lasting about an hour.

"The two leaders noted their longstanding personal connection" and agreed to strengthen the countries' alliance, the statement added.

The Israeli prime minister and US president "discussed the future advancement of the peace accords, the Iranian threat and regional challenges, and agreed to continue their dialogue."

Placing Netanyahu far down on the list was widely interpreted as Biden's way of signaling a reset in US-Mideast relations following the Trump era.

The Republican often boasted of being what he called the most "pro-Israel" president in US history. He closely followed Netanyahu's priorities, including moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.

Biden has also made a point of cooling the close personal relations established by Trump with Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Democrat has yet to call the Saudis and says when he does it will be to King Salman himself.

The perception of a cold shoulder irked Netanyahu's Likud Party.

Danny Danon, head of Likud's global wing, recently tweeted a list of Biden's conversations with leaders and asked, "Might it now be time to call the leader of Israel, the closest ally of the US?"

And Nikki Haley, Trump's former ambassador to the UN, accused the Biden administration of "snubbing" Israel.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted that Netanyahu wasn't being ignored - but indicated that he was not exactly on the front burner.

"Let me confirm for you that his first call with a leader in the region will be Prime Minister Netanyahu," she said. "I don't have an exact date for you but it is soon."