President Joe Biden has thus far refused to congratulate right-wing Israeli Prime Minister-elect Bibi Netanyahu on his decisive election victory last week, though according to reports, he’s planning to make a call sometime “soon.”
“A National Security Council spokesperson [said] that President Biden will speak with Netanyahu ‘soon,’ but avoided outright naming Netanyahu the prime minister-elect – instead saying that ‘Mr. Netanyahu, after winning a plurality in the Knesset, is likely to be tasked with forming a government over the coming days,'” Fox News reported Saturday.
The question is whether this delay is a purposeful snub or just coincidental.
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) November 5, 2022
On one hand, Biden isn’t the only one who hasn’t called yet.
“Few leaders have reached out to Netanyahu thus far, evidently waiting until he forms a coalition,” The Times of Israel reported Saturday.
“Some, such as Hungary’s Victor Orban, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenksy and India’s Narendra Modi have tweeted out their congratulations after Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats and his bloc of right-wing and religious parties secured a majority in the Knesset after four elections where it failed to do so,” the outlet added.
Plus, while the president hasn’t spoken to Netanyahu himself, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides has.
In a phone call last week, Nides congratulated the new Israeli prime minister and said he looks forward to “working together to maintain the unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel:
Good call just now with Benjamin @Netanyahu. I congratulated him on his victory and told him I look forward to working together to maintain the unbreakable bond. 🇺🇸 🤝🇮🇱
— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) November 3, 2022
But on the other hand, both the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “were swift to recognize Brazil’s President-elect Lula da Silva” after his election victory late last month, Fox News notes.
Also, “Blinken on Friday called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ‘joint efforts’ to enhance Palestinian security and reaffirm the commitment to a two-state solution,” according to Fox News.
And then there’s the fact that after Biden assumed office in early 2021, he waited nearly a month to call then-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“Last year, similar speculation over a call between the two took place after Biden assumed office following his election win in late 2020. The US president took four weeks since starting his first term in January 2021 to call the Israeli premier,” according to the Times.
“The seemingly lengthy period led to speculation that Netanyahu no longer had the close relationship with the White House that he enjoyed when Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was in office,” the Times notes.
Critics say the evidence suggests Biden is purposefully snubbing Netanyahu. But why? One possible reason is because he views Netanyahu’s incoming administration as too right-wing.
“Shared interests certainly exist, but Biden will most likely need an advanced microscope to find their remnants. In Washington, the whispers and warnings coming out of the White House and State Department are saying that the administration will ‘find it difficult’ to work with a government that includes far-right, racist members,” Haaretz, a far-left Israeli newspaper, notes.
Another possible reason for the apparent beef might be their vast disagreement on how to handle Iran.
“Although there is little strategic policy difference between [current Prime Minister Yair] Lapid and Netanyahu on Iran and the danger it poses to Israel, Lapid’s softer approach, working behind the scenes, was appreciated by President Biden,” according to The Hill.
“In contrast, Netanyahu publicly locked horns with Presidents Obama and Biden over issues involving Iran. Obama infuriated Netanyahu by deliberately misleading him about secret negotiations with Iran in Oman,” The Hill reported last month.
Indeed, right after Netanyahu left office in June of 2021 after losing an election to Lapid, he delivered a speech in which he blasted Biden over this very matter.
“In his last Knesset address as prime minister, a defiant Netanyahu spoke for more than half an hour, declaring that he would no longer keep his foreign policy disagreements with the Biden administration ‘behind closed doors,'” the New York Post reported at the time.
“The new US administration requested that I save our disagreements on the Iran nuclear deal behind closed doors, and not share them publicly, I told them I won’t act that way.” – Netanyahu
Biden’s dangerous decisions on Iran are WRONG.https://t.co/1hWg20C6D9
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) June 16, 2021
“The new US administration requested that I save our disagreements on the Iran nuclear deal for behind closed doors, and not share them publicly. I told them I won’t act that way,” the then-outgoing PM said.
“In 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to bomb the railway leading to the extermination camps, and refused to bomb the gas chambers, which could have saved millions of our people,” he continued.
“We hoped for others to save us, and they didn’t come. In the face of the threat of extermination, we were helpless. Our voice was not heard among the nations. We had neither a state or an army. But today we do have a voice. We do have a state, and we do have defensive power,” Netanyahu added.
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