Erdan: Netanyahu Not Bothered That Biden Hasn’t Phoned Him Yet

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L)  and then-Vice President Joe Biden pose for the media prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not troubled that President Joe Biden has not phoned him yet, Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Gilad Erdan said on Motzoei Shabbos, seeking to play down the lack of direct contact so far.

There has been speculation that the Democratic president could be signaling displeasure over the close ties Netanyahu forged with former President Donald Trump, who called Netanyahu two days after his inauguration in 2017.

“The Prime Minister is not worried about the timing of the conversation,” Erdan told N12. He said Biden had urgent matters to contend with, such as the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

On Friday, the White House denied that Biden was intentionally snubbing Netanyahu by failing to include him so far in phone calls to foreign leaders since taking office on Jan. 20, saying the two leaders would speak soon.

Biden has already called numerous foreign leaders, including those from China, Mexico, Britain, India, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

David Makovsky, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that once Biden starts phoning Middle East leaders, Netanyahu would likely be first among them.

While Netanyahu was in lock-step with Trump over Middle East policy, he could be in for frostier relations with Biden, although Biden has long been regarded in Israel as a friend in Washington.

Netanyahu may find the alliance tested if Washington restores U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from and opposes Israeli building on land where Palestinians seek statehood.