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World

Israel's Netanyahu talks with President Biden

  • Israel has surged ahead in its vaccination drive against Covid-19.
18 Feb 2021

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday spoke with Joe Biden for the first time since the US president came to office, the premier's media adviser said.

"The conversation was very warm and friendly and continued for approximately one hour," according to a statement by Netanyahu's media adviser.

The reported call follows frustration within Israel's ruling party that the new US president had yet to hold a conversation with Netanyahu, despite Biden being inaugurated four weeks ago and the two countries being strong allies.

"The two leaders noted their longstanding personal connection," and said they would collaborate to continue strengthening the steadfast alliance between Israel and the US, the statement added.

The Israeli premier and US president "discussed the future advancement of the peace accords, the Iranian threat and regional challenges, and agreed to continue their dialogue."

Biden had spoken with Netanyahu on November 17, two weeks after the presidential election in which he beat Donald Trump, a strong supporter of the right-wing Israeli prime minister.

In his first major policy speech, Biden did not even mention Israel as he spoke of his efforts to solidify US alliances.

Danny Danon, the head of the global wing of Netanyahu's Likud Party, recently tweeted a list of Biden's conversations with leaders and asked, "Might it now be time to call the leader of Israel, the closest ally of the US?"

Biden's predecessor Trump had taken a policy course that delighted Israel, shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem, in a move that broke with decades of international consensus and enraged the Palestinians, who see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump also unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal agreed between Iran and world powers, in another move that pleased Israel, which always opposed that multilateral pact.

But Biden has signalled a willingness to negotiate with Tehran to rescue the nuclear agreement, which has been hanging by a thread since the US withdrew in 2018.

In Wednesday's phone call, "Biden also commended Netanyahu on his leadership in the fight against the coronavirus," the Israeli premier's media adviser added.

Israel has surged ahead in its vaccination drive against Covid-19.

The country of about nine million people on Tuesday delivered a shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to its four millionth citizen.

More than 2.6 million of them have already received the second jab recommended for maximum protection.

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