WASHINGTON — President Biden has still not called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly a month after his Jan. 20 inauguration, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
At her daily briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked to clarify whether the new Biden administration considered the nations of Israel and Saudi Arabia as US allies.
“His first call with a leader in the region will be with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Psaki said. “It will be soon. I don’t have an exact date for you but it is soon. Stay tuned,” she continued.
“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,” she added.
Biden’s decision not to include Netanyahu in his flurry of early calls to world leaders has raised eyebrows both at home and abroad.
Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, suggested Biden pick up the phone after fielding calls from the leaders of 10 different nations, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Australia’s Scott Morrison.
“Might it now be time to call the leader of #Israel, the closest ally of the #US?” Danon wrote in a Feb. 10 tweet.
Israeli columnists have also noticed the silence between the two leaders and speculated that Biden is “ignoring” Israeli and its leader.
Former President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner developed a personal relationship with Netanyahu and sought to deepen ties with Israel by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Some pundits have speculated that this is the reason why Biden has not spoken to Netanyahu.
Last month, the official Twitter account of the US ambassador to Israel was also briefly changed to the “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”
The moved fueled speculation that the Biden administration was reversing Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over those areas before the account was swiftly restored to its former name and the change was labeled an “inadvertent edit.”
The White House has sought to downplay the speculation that Biden is turning away from Israel, as has Netanyahu himself.
“The Israel-US alliance is strong, and so is our friendship of almost 40 years, though we may not agree on everything,” Netanyahu said during an appearance last week.
According to a Hill report Monday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his counterpart in Israel, Meir Ben Shabbat, shortly after Biden took office.