The U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister spoke on Monday about Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and judicial reform in Israel.
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had a “warm and long” phone conversation on Monday, according to Netanyahu’s office, where they exchanged views on a range of regional and global issues.
The Israeli statement said that Biden reaffirmed his “iron-clad, unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security and condemned recent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. They also discussed their close cooperation to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions and destabilizing activities, including through joint military exercises.
Biden also expressed his concern about the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and urged all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that could undermine the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He welcomed Israel‘s willingness to consider new steps to improve the living conditions of Palestinians and praised the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to restore security control in some areas of the West Bank.
The two leaders agreed to consult with regional partners to convene a meeting soon in the Aqaba/Sharm format, which involves Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, to advance peace and stability in the region. They also reviewed the progress made in expanding normalization agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.
Finally, Biden reiterated his concern about the current debate in Israel over judicial reform, which has been criticized by some as an attempt by Netanyahu to undermine the independence of the judiciary and evade corruption charges. Biden stressed the need for broad consensus and respect for democratic values in Israel.
Phone Call for Two
The phone call came a day before Biden was scheduled to meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House. Herzog, who holds a largely ceremonial role, is expected to seek to repair relations with the Biden administration and the Democratic Party, which have been strained by Netanyahu’s policies and rhetoric.
Netanyahu, who has been in power for 12 years, faces a challenge from a diverse coalition of opposition parties that are trying to form a new government and oust him from office. He has also been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, which he denies.
The Israeli statement said that Biden invited Netanyahu to an “upcoming meeting in the U.S.” and that Netanyahu accepted the invitation. The White House did not confirm the phone call or the invitation.