The Biden transition team confirmed later Tuesday that the two leaders had discussed the United States’ commitment to Israeli security and that Biden expects to work closely with Netanyahu throughout his presidency.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also tweeted on Tuesday that he had spoken with Biden, calling him an “old friend” of Israel who “knows our friendship is based on values beyond partisan politics.”
Netanyahu is among the latest world leaders to speak to Biden in the two weeks since Election Day, following French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Chinese government and Pope Francis have congratulated the president-elect, as well. Biden’s transition team revealed that the president-elect had held discussions with leaders from Chile, South Africa and India on Tuesday, as well.
But the news of Netanyahu’s conversation with Biden is likely to be especially bruising for Trump, as the incumbent president and the prime minister have cultivated a geopolitical alliance and political partnership in recent years.
Trump’s administration has pursued a Middle East policy largely favoring Israel and focused on safeguarding it from regional threats such as Iran. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has used video of his diplomacy with Trump to promote his Likud Party in Israel’s legislative elections.
The Trump administration has also used its role in the recent Abraham Accords as examples of its foreign policy accomplishments. The agreement paved the way for Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations with Israel — the first Arab countries to do so since Jordan established relations in 1994. Saudi Arabia also allowed an El Al flight to use its airspace for a commercial flight for the first time. Sudan followed suit and normalized relations with Israel in October.
“President Trump’s foreign policy and national security record is comparable only to Ronald Reagan in the past two generations,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said, evoking the diplomatic developments with Israel.
Netanyahu had a famously frosty relationship with President Barack Obama, going so far as to accuse the Obama administration of carrying “out a shameful anti-Israel ploy at the U.N.” in 2016 after the U.S. abstained on a Security Council resolution urging Israel to stop constructing settlements in Palestinian territory.
But election-related tensions in their relationship became apparent last month, when Netanyahu notably declined an opportunity to publicly criticize Biden during a phone call with Trump in the Oval Office, despite the president’s encouragement to do so.