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Biden, Netanyahu Discuss Iran, Peace Efforts in First Official Call

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds first official call with President Joe Biden. Feb 17, 2021.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds first official call with President Joe Biden. Feb 17, 2021.

JERUSALEM, Israel – US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Wednesday, marking the first official conversation between the two leaders since the new administration entered the White House.

“The conversation was very warm and friendly and continued for approximately one hour,” the prime minister’s office said in a readout.

The White House said President Biden “affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and conveyed his intent to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel partnership, including our strong defense cooperation.”

The two leaders touched on the many challenges facing the region, including Iran. The Biden administration seeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers. Former President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the pact in 2018, a decision Biden has repeatedly condemned.  However, the president has made rejoining the agreement conditional upon Iran returning to its obligations under the deal and ceasing its enrichment of uranium. Israeli leaders strongly oppose the US rejoining the deal, even if it is renegotiated to address more of Israel’s security concerns.

Biden also expressed his support for the recent historic wave of peace deals between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world. They discussed the future advancement of peace accords, including peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians

The two leaders spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and exchanged ideas on how to contain the outbreak in their home countries, the prime minister’s office said.

Wednesday’s call came four weeks after Biden took office. The weeks-long wait raised concerns among Israelis who speculated the absence of a call signified a colder relationship between the two leaders.

  Biden had been delaying his official call with Netanyahu, in part, because he first wanted to speak with key European allies as he weighs his next steps with Iran, a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.

When asked about the absence of a call during a recent CNN interview, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden and Netanyahu had spoken during the transition.

“I think one of the first calls that the president had was with the prime minister. I’ve talked to my Israeli counterparts on multiple occasions already,” he said.

The Biden administration also has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and will keep the US embassy there.

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