Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Joe Biden

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US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Wednesday, nearly a month after Biden entered office.

Netanyahu was the first leader in the Middle East to get a call from Biden. The “warm and friendly” conversation lasted for nearly an hour, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The two leaders noted their personal ties of many years and said they will work together to continue bolstering the strong alliance between Israel and the US,” the PMO readout stated.

Netanyahu and Biden discussed continuing to promote peace agreements between Israel and states in the region, the Iranian threat and regional challenges.

The leaders agreed to continue a dialogue between them.

Biden also congratulated Netanyahu for his leadership in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and they exchanged opinions on the matter, according to the PMO statement.

“Biden affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel’s security in call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu,” a White House statement read.

“Biden emphasized US support for recent normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim word,” and “underscored importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians,” the statement added.

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“It was a good conversation,” Biden later told reporters in the Oval Office where he was meeting US labor leaders.

The phone call came a day before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold a video conference with his counterparts in the E3, the European countries – UK, France and Germany – that are party to the 2015 Iran deal. The meeting comes after Tehran announced it would not allow snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency if the US does not lift sanctions imposed since 2018 by February 21.

The Biden administration seeks to rejoin the nuclear deal, which former US president Donald Trump left in 2018, as long as Tehran returns to full compliance with its limitations. Israel is opposed to the deal, which would eventually permit Iran to enrich high levels of uranium that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. In recent weeks, Iran has begun enriching uranium to 20%, far beyond the limitations of the 2015 deal, and developing uranium metal.

The delay in Biden’s call sparked speculation that the president was distancing himself from Netanyahu, possibly in light of the prime minister’s tense relationship with former US president Barack Obama, under whom Biden was vice president, and his especially warm one with former president Donald Trump, including after Biden won the 2020 election.

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Netanyahu, however, rejected those theories, most recently in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday afternoon, in which he said “Joe Biden is my personal friend for 40 years” and that he believes Biden will advance further peace agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim states.

Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan each called their Israeli counterparts twice in recent weeks.

Advisers for some of Netanyahu’s political rivals said officials in the Biden administration told them they were maintaining the strong US-Israel relationship while relaying a message that there would be “no special relationship” between Netanyahu and Biden.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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