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Biden speaks to Netanyahu for first time since taking office

Biden speaks to Netanyahu for first time since taking office

President BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE on Wednesday, marking the first conversation between the two leaders since Biden took office a month ago.

The White House said in a statement that Biden “affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and conveyed his intent to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership, including our strong defense cooperation.” 

It added that the two discussed the security challenge posed by Iran and that Biden conveyed support for agreements between Israel and other countries in the Middle East to normalize relations, commonly known as the Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the previous Trump administration.

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“[Biden] underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said. “Together, they affirmed their shared interest in continued strategic cooperation to confront the many challenges facing the region.”

Biden separately characterized the call as a “good conversation” when asked about the exchange by reporters in the Oval Office.

Netanyahu’s office, which first disclosed the call, said that the two spoke for about an hour and described the conversation as “very warm and friendly.” 

“The two leaders noted their longstanding personal connection and said that they would work together to continue strengthening the steadfast alliance between Israel and the US,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “US President 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.”

The call was expected but highly anticipated, after questions were raised about why the conversation did not occur in the earlier weeks of the administration.

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White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Vaccination slowdown could threaten recovery New signs of progress emerge on police reform MORE had insisted that the new administration was not intentionally snubbing the Israelis by not including Netanyahu in Biden’s first round of calls to allies in Europe and Asia. 

“Israel is, of course, an ally. Israel is a country where we have an important strategic security relationship and our team is fully engaged, not at the head-of-state level quite yet but very soon,” Psaki told reporters at a briefing Tuesday.

Netanyahu enjoyed a close relationship with former President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE and waited several hours to congratulate Biden after he was declared the winner of the presidential election last November after other world leaders had done so. The relationship between Netanyahu and former President Obama was tense, in contrast, though the reaction of both Biden and Netanyahu on Wednesday seemed to indicate their new official relationship is off on strong footing.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon had last week tweeted a defunct number for Netanyahu and implored Biden to call the prime minister as the “closest ally of the U.S.”

Top Biden administration officials had already spoken with their counterparts in Israel.

Last month, national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanMenendez threatens sanctions on Russia if Navalny not given medical treatment The Memo: Russia tensions rise with Navalny's life in balance Navalny to be moved to hospital in another prison, officials say MORE spoke with Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenThe era of climate statecraft is here Biden administration working with Congress to provide 0 million for civilian assistance in Afghanistan US targets state-owned Myanmar timber, pearl businesses with new sanctions MORE spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales Overnight Defense: DC National Guard activates 250 troops ahead of Chauvin verdict | Planning update on Afghanistan withdrawal Top officers believe they have 'zero' extremists in their forces MORE also spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. 

Administration officials committed to ensuring Israel’s security and reiterated statements of cooperation addressing regional security.

—Updated at 5:53 p.m.