Netanyahu not bothered that Biden hasn’t phoned him yet, envoy says
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he arrives to a hearing in his corruption trial at Jerusalem’s District CourtSat, 13 February 2021, 6:56 pm
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not troubled that U.S. President Joe Biden has not phoned him yet, Israel’s ambassador to Washington said on Saturday, seeking to play down the lack of direct contact so far.
There has been speculation that the Democratic president could be signalling displeasure over the close ties Netanyahu forged with former President Donald Trump, who called Netanyahu two days after his inauguration in 2017.
“The prime minister is not worried about the timing of the conversation,” Ambassador Gilad Erdan told N12’s Meet The Press. He said Biden had urgent matters to contend with, such as the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
On Friday, the White House denied that Biden was intentionally snubbing Netanyahu by failing to include him so far in phone calls to foreign leaders since taking office on Jan. 20, saying the two leaders would speak soon.
Biden has already called numerous foreign leaders, including those from China, Mexico, Britain, India, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
David Makovsky, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said on Twitter that once Biden starts phoning Middle East leaders, Netanyahu would likely be first among them.
While the right-wing Netanyahu was in lock-step with Trump over Middle East policy, he could be in for frostier relations with Biden, although Biden has long been regarded in Israel as a friend in Washington.
Netanyahu may find the alliance tested if Washington restores U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from and opposes Israeli settlement building on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Frances Kerry)