President Biden described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday as “my friend for decades” as the conservative powerhouse once again became the Jewish state’s head of government.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been my friend for decades, to jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including threats from Iran,” the president said.
“The United States is working to promote a region that’s increasingly integrated, prosperous, and secure, with benefits for all of its people,” Biden added.
“From the start of my Administration, we have worked with partners to promote this more hopeful vision of a region at peace, including between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Biden also said in the statement, issued from his beach trip to the Virgin Islands, that “the United States will continue to support the two-state solution and to oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values.”
Netanyahu, 73, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and reclaimed power with the support of a majority of Knesset members just 18 months after he was ousted.
Netanyahu took office Thursday as the Knesset also selected its first openly gay speaker, Amir Ohana of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
Biden, 80, worked with Netanyahu during his prior tenures as prime minister — which spanned 2009 to 2021, covering almost all of Biden’s eight years as vice president, and 1996 to 1999 while Biden was a senator.
Former President Donald Trump, 76, was a close ally to Netanyahu and said he felt betrayed by the Israeli leader’s decision to congratulate Biden on his victory shortly after the 2020 election.
“The man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with … Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake,” Trump said in an interview published last year, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
“He was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. F–k him,” added Trump, who is seeking a rematch against Biden in 2024.
Trump boosted Netanyahu’s standing by hosting him at the White House shortly before Israel’s 2019 election and announcing that the US would recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria.
Trump also ordered in 2017 that the US embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem, brushing aside longstanding qualms about Arab claims to the city, and in 2018 withdrew the US from the Obama-Biden administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu opposed the agreement, saying it didn’t do enough to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb while releasing funds that were used by Iran-backed rebels and terrorists across the Mideast. He slammed the Biden administration for its “downright dangerous” attempts to restore the pact.
Although the Biden administration attempted to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal, Biden recently said the effort is “dead” after Iranian negotiators balked.
In 2020, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner led successful US efforts to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — in a breakthrough after decades of only Egypt and Jordan recognizing the Jewish state.
Biden has touted his own administration’s efforts to continue normalizing Israeli-Arab relations, including by flying directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia in July after the Saudi government decided to allow planes to enter its airspace from Israel.