Benjamin Netanyahu’s Twitter feed has portrayed Donald Trump for a long time, describing the former US president as Israel’s best friend in the White House. Trump pursued a policy widely believed to have strengthened Netanyahu at home, and the two men have often spoken warmly about each other.
But now it’s Joe Biden who rules, which means a different relationship – although Israel will continue to be the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East. Some have interpreted that he had time to speak with a number of other world leaders before picking up the phone to call Prime Minister Netanyahu as a signal from Biden that he would choose a different path than his representative.
However, both parties describe the hour-long conversation in positive terms. And there was no conversation between strangers. The two first met in the 1980s when Biden was a young senator on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Netanyahu was a recent diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. A kind of friendship arose, as they visited each other’s families and kept in touch even as Netanyahu rose to political office.
However, the friendship became more strained when Biden became Vice President Barack Obama, whose relationship with Netanyahu has been, to say the least, lukewarm – especially in recent years. But then Biden must have acted as a diplomatic mediator.
Almost four decades after the first meeting, the positions of Netanyahu and Biden in power have been greatly strengthened. Now they have to decide how the interstate relationship will work in the future.
Accused of ignorance
The delay in the phone call prompted former Trump ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, to accuse Biden of ignoring Israel. But White House spokesman Gene Psaki denied this, who was allowed to make clear that Netanyahu would definitely be the first leader in the Middle East to receive a call from the new president.
But despite the relaxed talks – which included Iran, defense cooperation, and Israel’s normal relations with Arab states – Biden has an agenda in the Middle East that differs greatly from the one that has made Trump popular with Netanyahu.
The biggest change concerns the attitude toward Iran. Israel welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Biden said he wanted to embark on a more diplomatic path and return to some form of agreement.
Coexistence is over
Shalom LeibnerAssociated with the Atlantic Council, he states that the phone conversation was more important to Netanyahu, who faces new elections and wants to present himself as the person best suited to handle the important bilateral relationship.
“The United States and Israel will continue to remain friends and will at times agree to disagree. But the days of coexistence between Netanyahu and Trump are over,” Leibner wrote on Twitter.
Sophia Erickson / TT
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement was signed in 2015 by Iran and the so-called “P5 + 1” – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (France, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States) and Germany.
The agreement aimed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – after decades of global fear.
In return, international sanctions on Iran would be lifted. Among other things, the JCPOA provided insight into Iran’s nuclear energy program at the same time that it was drastically curtailed.
But in 2018, US President Donald Trump left the agreement and it has since cracked badly. The United States has re-imposed tough sanctions on the country, which affected other countries’ opportunities to trade with Iran.
Iran has confirmed that it has started enriching uranium at the same level it was before the nuclear deal. The country is also trying to pressure plans to stop certain inspections by the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency.