WASHINGTON (JTA) — In a statement congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on the swearing in of his new government, President Joe Biden reminded his “friend for decades” of the U.S. administration’s commitment to a two-state solution, something that Netanyahu has effectively abandoned.
Biden also emphasized a key concern for Netanyahu, reports that Iran is about to become a nuclear weapon state.
“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,” he said in his statement.
But much of the statement was devoted to Israeli-Palestinian peace, which Netanyahu has downplayed in favor of expanding relations with other Arab neighbors.
“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 said. “We aim to continue this important work with Israel’s new government under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership. And as we have throughout my Administration, 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 in recent years has rejected the two-state outcome. His new right-wing coalition is committed to advancing West Bank settlement expansion, a policy that Biden and his administration reject as harmful to the peace process.
In his statement, Biden did not mention Netanyahu’s extremist coalition partners who have worried U.S. Jewish leaders and politicians. Biden administration officials reportedly have said they will not meet with Cabinet ministers from the Religious Zionist bloc, including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, but his top officials have also said they will deal with Israel on the basis of its policies and not on the individuals in its government.