Biden speaks to Netanyahu for first time since taking office

President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 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.

“[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.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki 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 Trump 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 Sullivan spoke with Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin 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.

Tags Antony Blinken Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump Israel Jake Sullivan Jen Psaki Joe Biden Lloyd Austin

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