A month after coming to power, Joe Biden finally spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, during a phone call in which Iran featured prominently.
The time taken by the new American president to make contact with “Bibi”, who was particularly pampered by Donald Trump, had sparked a controversy in the Israeli press and provoked strong criticism from certain Republican tenors.
“Good conversation”, summed up, laconic, Joe Biden from the Oval Office. “The discussion was warm, friendly and lasted about an hour,” said Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter, adding that he addressed the issues of the “agreements” of peace in the Middle East, the “Iranian threat” and the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
US President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the future advancement of the peace accords, the Iranian threat and regional challenges, and agreed to continue their dialogue.
– PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 17, 2021
The two leaders stressed “the importance of continuing close consultation on regional security issues, particularly Iran,” the White House said, without commenting on the thorny issue of the Iran nuclear deal. .
Joe Biden insisted on US support for the recent normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates announced last summer the normalization of relations with Israel, followed subsequently by Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. But questions remain about the posture that the new administration will adopt: will the United States actually push other countries in the region to embark on the standardization train?
One of the key countries, seen as a potential candidate for standardization, is Saudi Arabia. In this regard, the Biden administration has already announced its intention to “recalibrate” its relations with Riyadh and to change interlocutor to move from Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman (MBS) to King Salman.
One of the crucial issues for Saudi Arabia, as for Israel, remains the question of Iran’s regional influence and its nuclear program. The Jewish state has never hidden its opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and had supported the “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran led by the Trump administration, which unilaterally withdrew the United States from this agreement to restore sanctions.
President Biden has pledged to return to the deal, on condition, however, that Iran first resigns to its commitments. Such a comeback would be a “bad thing,” IDF chief Aviv Kochavi recently said.
The normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries are in this regard a “counterweight to the Shiite axis”, an expression designating Iran’s regional support, and are an “important opportunity to increase pressure on Iran”, a senior Israeli military official told AFP last week. According to the White House report, Joe Biden also stressed “the importance of advancing peace across the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians”.
Where Donald Trump had promised from the outset, in 2017, to find the “ultimate agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians, without ever reaching it, the Biden administration has shown from the start its caution, and its willingness to take his time.
The new head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken assured that the “two-state solution” was the only viable one, thus reviving the international consensus battered by the Republican billionaire. But he also acknowledged that the different parties were “very far from a breakthrough for peace” and from a “final resolution” with the creation of a Palestinian state.
Evidence of some embarrassment, the Biden administration has yet to clarify its position on the long list of pro-Israel unilateral decisions taken by Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.