Biden congratulates Israel’s Netanyahu in phone call

US president underscored his ‘unwavering support for Israeli security’ in call with incoming PM, White House says.

US President Joe Biden has congratulated Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory as the incoming Israeli prime minister gears up to form one of the most right-wing governments in the country’s history.

The White House said on Monday that Biden called Netanyahu to commend “Israel’s free and fair elections”.

“The president reaffirmed the strength of the bilateral partnership and underscored his unwavering support for Israeli security,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The call comes less than 24 hours before the crucial US midterm elections that will test Biden’s popularity and decide the makeup of Congress.

Netanyahu and his allies, including far-right parties and politicians accused of open racism against Palestinians and Arabs, won their own election last week, paving the way for the former prime minister to return to power.

Netanyahu had announced the call with Biden earlier in the day, saying that he told the US president that they can secure more normalisation agreements and “deal with the threat of Iranian aggression”.

Rights advocates had called on the Biden administration to review its ties with Israel after the election results. J Street, a liberal Jewish-American group that described itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, urged reassessing the US position of unconditional support for any Israeli government.

“Under the looming ultra-right Israeli government that may take shape, that business-as-usual approach will be strained to untenable limits,” the group said in a statement on November 2.

Last week, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said the US hoped that “all Israeli government officials will continue to share the values of an open, democratic society, including tolerance and respect for all in civil society, particularly for minority groups”.

On Monday, the White House’s Jean-Pierre said the US administration will “continue to closely monitor the government formation process” in Israel.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Israeli government on our shared interests and values,” she said.

Biden, a self-described Zionist who has pledged to put human rights at the heart of US foreign policy, has often stressed that the US’s commitment to Israel is “ironclad”.

The US administration has refrained from criticising Israeli policies against Palestinians, including frequent deadly military raids and continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

When Biden started his White House tenure early in 2021, it took him nearly a month to phone Netanyahu, who was in power in Israel at that time, raising questions about the relationship between the two leaders.

Netanyahu enjoys close ties with former Republican President Donald Trump. Still, Biden often expresses personal admiration for Netanyahu despite their political differences.

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