Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday on the phone for the first time since the president’s inauguration.
‘’The conversation was very warm and friendly and continued for approximately one hour,’’ said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
‘’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 statement continued.
The two leaders discussed the future advancement of the peace accords, the Iranian threat and regional challenges, and agreed to continue their dialogue.
In the conversation, President Biden commended Netanyahu on his leadership in the fight against the coronavirus. The two exchanged ideas on ways to deal with the pandemic.
Accrding to a readout of the talk issued by the White House, President 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.’’
‘’Together, the leaders discussed the importance of continued close consultation on regional security issues, including Iran,’’ the readout said.
‘’The President emphasized U.S. support for the recent normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world. He underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians. Together, they affirmed their shared interest in continued strategic cooperation to confront the many challenges facing the region.’’
Netanyahu was the first leader in the Middle East to get a call from Biden.
The phone call came a day before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold a video conference with his counterparts in the E3, the European countries – UK, France and Germany – that are party to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The meeting comes after Tehran announced it would not allow snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency if the US does not lift sanctions imposed since 2018 by February 21.
The Biden administration seeks to rejoin the nuclear deal, which former US president Donald Trump left in 2018, as long as Tehran returns to full compliance with its limitations. Israel is opposed to the deal, which would permit Iran to enrich high levels of uranium that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. In recent weeks, Iran has begun enriching uranium to 20%, far beyond the limitations of the 2015 deal, and developing uranium metal.
The delay in Biden’s call to Netanyahu sparked speculation that the president was distancing himself from Netanyahu, possibly in light of the Prime Minister’s tense relationship with former US president Barack Obama, under whom Biden was Vice President. There has been also speculation suggesting that Biden didn’t want to help Netanyahu in the 23 March Israeli elections.
Netanyahu, however, rejected those theories, most recently in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday afternoon, in which he said “Joe Biden is my personal friend for 40 years” and that he believes Biden will advance further peace agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim states.