Was Joe Biden's month-long delay in calling Benjamin Netanyahu intentional? Trump called Israeli PM in 2 days

It was sort of paying Netanyahu back after he undermined the former Barack Obama administration, set up a close alignment with former president Donald Trump and took time to congratulate Biden


                            Was Joe Biden's month-long delay in calling Benjamin Netanyahu intentional? Trump called Israeli PM in 2 days
President Joe Biden had a lengthy phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images)

Speculation was rife over the relation between the US and Israel under the Joe Biden administration as the new president since taking office almost a month ago was yet to speak with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of the Jewish state. However, the much-awaited phone call eventually took place on Wednesday, February 17 and both the time-tested allies reacted positively to the talks that lasted for roughly an hour.

Various quarters were wondering over the reason for the delay. While several officials on both sides said Biden and Netanyahu shared a long-standing relationship and had constant contact at other levels of the government, Biden’s calls with other leaders in Asia and Europe conveyed the message that the new administration in Washington prioritized confrontations with China and Russia and mending relations with other allies.  

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) prepare to make statements after their meeting May 20, 2011 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.  (Getty Images)

One source familiar with the White House told CNN that through the delay, the Biden administration was sort of paying Netanyahu back after the latter undermined the former Barack Obama administration, set up a close alignment with former president Donald Trump and took time to congratulate Biden over his 2020 win over Trump. Ben Rhodes, who worked as Obama's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications said in a tweet: "What a surprise that after Bibi spent years relentlessly undermining the Obama-Biden Administration he's not at the top of the call list."



 

'It was a good conversation'

Shortly after the call, Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that “it was a good conversation” though he stopped short of elaborating. The Twitter account of the PM of Israel, on the other hand, said Netanyahu spoke with Biden for almost an hour and the conversation was “friendly and warm”. “The two leaders noted their long-standing personal connection and said that they would work together to continue strengthening the steadfast alliance between Israel and the US,” the account added. The tweet thread also featured a picture of Netanyahu, widely smiling as he speaks over the phone, with a map of the Middle East and the flag of Israel in the background. 



 

 



 

 



 

 



 


Last week, when the White House was asked the reason for the delay in the two leaders’ talks, it said there was nothing significant about it. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said “He’ll be talking with him soon” but declined to give a specific date or time. Later, Psaki said Netanyahu would be the first leader in the Middle East to speak with the American president. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with former president Donald Trump prior to the President's departure from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Getty Images)

“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, but our team is fully engaged, having constant conversations at many levels with the Israelis,” the press secretary said. 

'There are differences on Iran, Palestine'

Netanyahu, too, downplayed the delay. At a news conference last week, the Israeli premier said: “(President Biden) calls leaders in the order that he finds acceptable, North America, then Europe. He hasn’t reached the Middle East yet. I presume he will call me. Believe me, I have no doubt about it.”

He, however, recently acknowledged differences with Biden over Iran and issues involving the Palestinians. Speaking with Israel’s Channel 12 on Monday, February 15, Netanyahu said: “He'll call ... We have had very strong friendly relations for nearly 40 years, dating from the time I came to Washington as an Israeli diplomatic representative and he was a young senator from Delaware. We also have many things we agree on and the alliance is very strong. But there are also differences, on the issue of Iran and on the Palestinian issue as well.”

Trump called Netanyahu just two days after his inauguration in 2017.

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