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Biden speaks with Netanyahu and Rivlin, assures Israeli leaders ties will remain ‘close’

(JTA) — President-elect Joe Biden assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call Tuesday that the ties between their countries would remain strong.

“The president-elect noted that he expects to work closely with the prime minister to address the many challenges confronting our countries,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement following the call. “The president-elect expressed his determination to ensure that the U.S.-Israel relationship is strengthened and enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

Netanyahu’s office put out a similarly worded statement on Twitter.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke this evening with US President-elect @JoeBiden,” the tweet said. “In a warm conversation, the President-elect reiterated his deep commitment to the State of Israel and its security.”

Biden’s conversation with Netanyahu and a separate one the same day with President Reuven Rivlin consolidated international recognition that Biden is the next U.S. president, contrary to President Donald Trump’s continued insistence that he won the Nov. 3 election despite all evidence to the contrary.

Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest allies, had previously congratulated Biden, but the tweet Tuesday was the first time he referred to Biden as “president-elect” — a title for the former vice president that Trump adamantly rejects. All but a handful of foreign leaders have already called Biden the president-elect.

The statements also were significant because Biden appeared to be going out of his way following the election to reassure Netanyahu that the relationship would remain close. Some Democrats, including a number of Biden’s rivals during the primaries, have called for distancing from Netanyahu’s government as it drifts to the right, at one point considering annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu particularly would want reassurance that Biden would continue Trump’s policy of confronting Iran — one of the “challenges” Biden alluded to in his statement.

In both statements describing the calls with Netanyahu and Rivlin, Biden also emphasized his support for “Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state,” a reference to Biden’s oft-stated support for a two-state outcome and his opposition to any further Israeli encroachment on areas claimed by Palestinians.

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