Biden congratulates newly-formed Israeli government

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President Biden and other U.S. officials on Sunday congratulated Israel’s new government after the coalition survived a vote of confidence in the Israeli parliament, officially ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office.

Biden spoke on the phone Sunday afternoon with Israel’s newly-minted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The While House said Biden offered his “warm congratulations” and “expressed his firm intent to deepen cooperation” between the U.S. and Israel “on the many challenges and opportunities facing the region.” 

Biden said his administration plans to “work closely” with the Israeli government on efforts to “advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians,” and underscored his “decades of steadfast support for the U.S.-Israel relationship and his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” according to a readout of the call provided by the White House.

“The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran,” the readout added.

The Israeli parliament on Sunday approved the new power-sharing government led by Bennett, the Orthodox leader of Israel’s religious-nationalist movement and a former Netanyahu aide, in a close vote of confidence, 60-59 with one abstention.

The vote marks the first time in 12 years that Israel will be led by someone other than Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s Likud-run government will now be replaced with a hodgepodge of Israeli parties that came together around the prospect of removing the sitting prime minister, despite their limited agreement on few issues.

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” Biden said in a statement shortly after the vote.

He said he looks forward to working with Bennett to “strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations,” adding “Israel has no better friend than the United States.”

“The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security,” Biden added.

He also said his administration is “fully committed” to working with Israel’s new government to “advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”

Bennett in a tweet thanked Biden and said, “I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued his own statement saying the U.S. “warmly welcomes the announcement of a new government of the State of Israel. We look forward to working closely with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and the new Israeli cabinet.”

He added, “We look forward to strengthening all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership and working together for a more secure and prosperous future.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin extended a congratulations to Benjamin Gantz on his appointment as Israel’s defense minister, a position he also held under the Netanyahu administration.

“Secretary Austin looks forward to continuing the important cooperation and dialogue with Minister Gantz to deepen the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership. The U.S. commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

The vote capped off Netanyahu’s long reign in Israel, and marked the culmination of four inconclusive elections for one of the U.S.’s closest allies.

It also follows a period of fierce violence in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which came to an end last month with a cease-fire after 11 days of clashes.

Biden repeatedly affirmed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas throughout the violence, and condemned the attacks against towns and cities in Israel.

The clashes in the Gaza Strip sparked a debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, some of whom sparred when it came to the U.S.’s funding for Israel and Palestine.

Updated at 4:40 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Benjamin Netanyahu Joe Biden Lloyd Austin

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