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Biden and Netanyahu, in first phone call since US leader’s inauguration, speak for an hour

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly a month into his first term — a time frame that drew criticism from Republicans for its length.

Biden appeared to make up for lost time, at least according to Netanyahu’s account on Twitter, and the two spoke for an hour.

The conversation was “friendly and warm” Netanyahu said in Hebrew, addressing an Israeli electorate that places a high value on healthy relations with the United States. His tweet, accompanied by a photo of a grinning Netanyahu on the phone, comes just weeks before an Israeli election.

“The two leaders remarked on their personal relationship of many years and said they will work together for the continuation and strengthening of the unshakeable alliance between Israel and the United States,” the tweet said.

Netanyahu said they discussed “advancing the peace deals, the Iranian threat and the challenges in the region.”

Biden has said that he would preserve the normalization agreements that his predecessor, Donald Trump, brokered between Israel and four Sunni Arab countries. The president also has said that he wants to return to the Iran nuclear deal, which Netanyahu opposes. Netanyahu did not say whether they discussed Israeli-Palestinian relations. Biden wants to revive U.S.-Palestinian ties, which were all but cut off by Trump.

The two men also discussed Israel’s successful vaccination program to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden had come under fire by congressional Republicans for not immediately calling Netanyahu. Biden’s spokeswoman said he was tackling an array of challenges and was not ignoring Netanyahu. She also said the leaders had spoken after Biden’s election in November.

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