President Biden on Thursday described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “my friend for decades” as the conservative powerhouse once again became the Jewish state’s head of government.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been my friend for decades, to jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including threats from Iran,” said the president.
“The United States strives to promote an increasingly integrated, prosperous, and secure region with benefits for all its residents,” Biden added.
“Since the beginning of my administration, we have worked with partners to promote this more optimistic vision of a region at peace, including between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Biden also said in the statement, from his beach trip to the Virgin Islands, that “the United States will continue to support the two-state solution and oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values”.
Netanyahu, 73, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and returned to power with the support of a majority of Knesset members just 18 months after his ousting.
Netanyahu took office on Thursday as the Knesset also chose its first openly gay speaker, Amir Ohana of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
Biden, 80, worked with Netanyahu during his previous terms as prime minister – which lasted from 2009 to 2021, covering almost all of Biden’s eight years as vice president, and from 1996 to 1999 when Biden was a senator.
Former President Donald Trump, 76, was a close ally of Netanyahu and said he felt betrayed by the Israeli leader’s decision to congratulate Biden on his victory shortly after the 2020 election.
“The man I did more for than anyone else I dealt with…Bibi could have stayed silent. He made a terrible mistake,” Trump said in an interview published last year, using the nickname Netanyahu.
“It was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. F–k him,” added Trump, who is seeking a rematch against Biden in 2024.
Trump bolstered Netanyahu’s position by welcoming him to the White House shortly before the 2019 Israeli elections and announcing that the United States would recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria.
Trump also ordered in 2017 that the US embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem, dispelling longstanding qualms over Arab claims on the city, and in 2018 withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. the Obama-Biden administration.
Netanyahu opposed the deal, saying he was not doing enough to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb while freeing up funds that have been used by rebels and Iran-backed terrorists across the Middle East. He criticized the Biden administration for its “downright dangerous” attempts to reinstate the pact.
Although the Biden administration has tried to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal, Biden recently declared the effort “dead” after Iranian negotiators balked.
In 2020, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner successfully led US efforts to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – in a breakthrough after decades of only Egypt and Jordan have recognized the Jewish state.
Biden has touted his own administration’s efforts to continue normalizing Arab-Israeli relations, including flying directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia in July after the Saudi government decided to allow planes into its space air from Israel.