President Joe Biden has made a flurry of phone calls to several major leaders in the Europe and Asia-Pacific region since his inauguration but has not called anyone in the Middle East yet, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He faced criticism for “snubbing” the Israeli prime minister and avoiding calling him nearly a month after taking office.
Former President Donald Trump was a close ally of Netanyahu and moved US-relations further away from the Palestinians. The US has also provided about $3.8 billion in annual military aid and shielding from censure in international forums towards Palestinian policies. Netanyahu has also been a strong supporter of conservative views and openly criticized the Iran nuclear deal under the Obama administration.
The Biden Administration put off the planned phone call to avoid helping the Prime Minister ahead of the March 23 Knesset election, saying he would try to “spin” the phone call to gain political points. Netanyahu, however, told reporters last week that the Israel-US alliance is strong even though “we may not agree on everything.”
A reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki to clarify whether the Biden Administration considered the nations of Israel and Saudi Arabia as US allies. Psaki said Biden’s first call would be with Prime Minister Netanyahu. She said she did not have an exact date, but that it would be soon.
“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 and having constant conservations at many levels with the Israelis,” Psaki said.
Israeli pundits, however, question the message Biden is sending in not making contact with Netanyahu, but reaching out to leaders in Canada, Britain, France, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and South Korea. President Biden also spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, even tweeted out “Might it now be time to call the leader of #Israel, the closest alley of the #US?”
Former President Donald Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner had developed a personal relationship with the Prime Minister and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Just last month, the Twitter account of the US ambassador to Israel was briefly changed to “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.” This sparked speculation that the Biden Administration was reversing Israel’s sovereignty over those areas. The account was quickly restored and relabeled as “inadvertent edit.”
We wouldn’t be surprised that the man who spent his entire campaign in his basement can’t even make one phone call to a Prime Minister but he’s called everyone else. He’s made that clear. A new President always contacts their closest allies within days of being elected – this is not a good sign from the administration to Israel.