Biden and Netanyahu talk Iran, US-Israel alliance

US President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday for the first time since taking office, speaking about Iran and strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship, reports, citing the Israeli and White House readouts of the call.

Biden and Netanyahu talk Iran, US-Israel alliance

Biden and Netanyahu talk Iran, US-Israel alliance

STEPANAKERT, FEBRUARY 18, ARTSAKHPRESS: The Israeli readout made no specific mention of a Palestinian state or a potential two-state solution. Netanyahu has long downplayed the chance of a Palestinian state coming to fruition. The White House readout, however, said Biden “underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians.” But the president did not specifically mention a two-state solution.

The two leaders were described as speaking for about an hour and having a “very warm and friendly” call, touching on their personal ties and saying they’d work together to “continue strengthening the steadfast alliance” between the two countries, according to the Israeli readout.
Biden also said he hoped to strengthen the partnership, including on “defense cooperation,” according to the White House readout. The president said it was important for the two nations to work together on “regional security issues” such as Iran, the White House readout said.

“Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the future advancement of the peace accords, the Iranian threat and regional challenges, and agreed to continue their dialogue,” according to the statement from Netanyahu’s media adviser. “Biden commended Prime Minister Netanyahu on his leadership in the fight against the coronavirus; the two exchanged ideas on ways to deal with the pandemic.”

The White House readout said Biden stressed support “for the recent normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Biden told reporters that he had a “good conversation“ with Netanyahu but didn’t say more, according to a press pool report from the Oval Office.

Netanyahu is the first Middle East leader Biden has called in office, leading some in Israel to think Biden’s move not to call Netanyahu until now was a snub. Netanyahu was one of former President Donald Trump’s closest international allies. Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the lack of a call until now wasn’t an “intentional diss.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is someone the president has known for some time,” she said. “Obviously, we have a long and important relationship with Israel, and the president has known him and has been working on a range of issues that there’s a mutual commitment to for some time. It is just a reflection of the fact that we have been here for three and a half weeks, he’s not called every single global leader yet, and he is eager to do that in the weeks ahead.”