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Israeli leaders have ‘warm’ talks with Biden

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a “warm conversation” with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden last night.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said that “the special bond between Israel and the US is a fundamental component of Israel’s security and its policy.”

“The two agreed to meet soon in order to discuss the many issues on the agenda and reiterated the need to continue bolstering the steadfast alliance between the US and Israel,” added the statement.

The President-elect was said to have “reiterated his deep commitment to the State of Israel and its security.”

The Biden transition team released a communique, saying that: “The President-elect thanked the Prime Minister for his congratulations, and reiterated his steadfast support for Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Netanyahu had congratulated Biden and running mate Kamala Harris on Twitter on 8 November, just one day after the Democrat declared victory in the U.S. election. The Israeli leader also thanked outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump for his friendship.

Until now, Netanyahu has publicly refrained from referring to Biden as “President-elect,” in what has widely been viewed as an effort to avoid angering  Trump, who has challenged his rival’s victory. Having held a strong working relationship with Washington for the past 4 four years, Netanyahu will likely be challenged by any Biden departure from Trump’s tough stance toward Iran and the Palestinians.

Biden has pledged to restore U.S. involvement in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – which Trump withdrew from 3 years later. He may also oppose Israeli settlement on West Bank lands where Palestinians seek statehood.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, was non-committal during an interview on the domestic Galei Israel radio station yesterday afternoon, on who he believes won the U.S. election.

“Why do I have to express an opinion?” he replied. “They have an internal process – the Electoral College. I think everybody more or less understands what … is apparently going to happen officially.”

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whose post is largely ceremonial, also spoke to Biden on Tuesday, using the occasion to congratulate him on his victory.

“As a long-standing friend of the State of Israel, you know that our friendship is based on values that are beyond partisan politics and that we have no doubt that, under your leadership, the United States is committed to Israel’s security and success,” Rivlin told the US leader.

President Rivlin underscored that, “The United States of America has no stronger ally than the State of Israel, there is nothing stronger than the friendship between the American people and the Israeli people, and the President of the United States of America has no greater friend than the President of the State of Israel, as we have proved over the years.”

According to an official statement, President Rivlin also told Biden that he “hoped to work with the President-elect to build further bridges and hope across the region as the recently signed Abraham Accords have done.”

“I was happy to welcome you to Jerusalem as Vice President, and I would be happy to welcome you here when you come to Jerusalem as President,” he said, and asked President-elect Biden to also convey his best wishes to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The Biden transition team responded by saying that the President-elect “looks forward to working with Israel to build an ever stronger partnership between our two countries.”