Biden Congratulates Netanyahu – 4 Days After Final Election Results in Israel
Then-Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2010. (Photo by David Furst / AFP via Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – President Biden on Monday congratulated Binyamin Netanyahu on winning a new term as Israeli prime minister, in a call that came four days after final results were announced and the outgoing caretaker prime minister Lapid conceded defeat.
The White House said, “President Biden spoke today with former Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his party’s victory and commend Israel’s free and fair elections.”
“The President reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Israel bilateral partnership, based on a bedrock of shared democratic values and mutual interests, and underscored his unwavering support for Israel’s security,” it said. “The two leaders agreed to speak again at the conclusion of Israel’s government formation process.”
The relative wait for the eight-minute phone call had raised eyebrows in Israel, where the United States is widely viewed as Israel’s closest ally. Netanyahu had earlier received messages from a number of leaders, including the presidents or prime ministers of Britain, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine.
(In Brazil’s recent presidential election, both the State Department and Biden posted tweets congratulating leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his victory very shortly after the results were announced – just 64 minutes later in the case of the State Department, and about two-and-a-half hours later in Biden’s case.)
The delay in speaking to Netanyahu recalled Biden holding off for 27 days after his inauguration in January 2021 before he called the then-Israeli prime minister. By the time he did so Biden had already spoken to the leaders of numerous allies – and even to the presidents of Russia and China.
Netanyahu enjoyed a warm relationship with President Trump, whose withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, and mediating of normalization deals between Israel and four Arab nations, aligned closely to the Likud prime minister’s policies and priorities.
Netanyahu earlier relationship with President Obama, however, was strained at times, particularly over the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran which Netanyahu viewed as misguided and deeply dangerous to Israel.
Biden’s attempts to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) threatened to revive some of those tensions, although Netanyahu left office five months into Biden’s term. His successors, alternate Prime Ministers Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, are no supporters of the JCPOA but aired their concerns quietly.
While the administration did not acknowledge Israel’s election results for four days, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides did speak to Netanyahu by phone on Thursday, shortly after the Central Elections Committee announced the final results.
Queries sent to the State Department about the length of time taken for the administration to acknowledge the election outcome brought no response by press time.
President Joe Biden speaks on the phone on October 14, 2022. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
After the call from Biden on Monday, Netanyahu tweeted that he had thanked the president “for his personal friendship that spans 40 years between us and for his commitment to the State of Israel.”
“I told him that it is within our power to obtain additional peace agreements [between Israel and Arab states] and also to deal with the threat of Iranian aggression.”
The 40-year friendship reference points back to a time when Biden, now 79, was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Netanyahu, now 73, was deputy Israeli ambassador to Washington in the early 1980s.
Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister (1996-1999) coincided with Biden’s tenure as ranking minority member on the committee (he went on to chair it), and the Israeli’s return to the helm in 2009 came two months after Biden became vice president.
Netanyahu remained prime minister until mid-2021, becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu’s return now heralds what media outlets are widely describing as “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history,” largely because of the presence of controversial far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir.
As co-leader of the second-biggest party in the Likud-led coalition of parties expected to make up the new government, Ben-Gvir will almost certainly get a senior cabinet post, possibly that of police minister.
Asked about that prospect on Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to “speculate” about the make-up of a government yet to be formed.
“But, the point we’ve also made is that our rock-solid partnership with Israel is based on mutual interests and shared values,” he said.
“It is a commitment to the value of open democratic societies, tolerance, respect for civil society including minorities and our – ultimately, our identities as two democracies.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration “will continue to closely monitor the government-formation process. As you know, that is the next process in this.”
In a column in the Israel Hayom daily on Monday, Ben-Gvir sought to allay some of his compatriots’ concerns, writing that he has “matured, moderated, and come to the understanding that life is complex,” and that if those on the left get to know him they will find that he and they “agree on 90% of the issues.”
On his views about the divisive annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, he wrote, “even if I don’t like the parade, I will still ensure that all the marchers will be kept safe.”
The column was silent on the issue of negotiations towards achieving Palestinian statehood, the desired outcome of the “two-state solution” promoted by the U.S. and many other governments.
“There will be many disputes and controversies, and there is plenty to argue about; the 10% that keeps us apart could fill countless television broadcasts and newspaper editions,” Ben-Gvir concluded. “But there is no reason for fear or hatred – we are brothers!”