Republican Leaders Slam Biden for Not Calling Israeli PM Netanyahu

Biden has spoken to Russia, China, but not Israel

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February 11, 2021

American and Israeli leaders are concerned about President Joe Biden’s refusal since taking office to call Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden has already held calls with at least 10 world leaders during his first month in office, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping, but has yet to hold one with America’s top Middle East ally.

Israeli leaders have noticed the snub, with Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeting to Biden on Wednesday, "Might it now be time to call the leader of Israel, the closest ally of the U.S.?" A chorus of GOP foreign policy leaders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on Thursday also harshly criticized Biden, worrying it could be a sign of chilly relations between the United States and Israel.

When pressed on Thursday to explain why Biden has not called Netanyahu, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden "looks forward" to speaking with the Israeli prime minister, but there is no specific "date or time" for that call.

The diplomatic slight comes at a sensitive time for Israel as it grapples with Iran’s growing nuclear program and concerns the Biden administration will make it a top priority to rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement that provided Tehran with billions of dollars in cash windfalls. Compounding these concerns is the Biden administration’s hiring of several individuals with a background in anti-Israel activism, including Maher Bitar, a top White House National Security Council official who spent his youth organizing boycotts of the Jewish state. The State Department’s Iran envoy, Robert Malley, also has been a vocal critic of Israel.

Congressional Republicans are piling on the White House for not speaking with Netanyahu, with multiple members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee telling the Free Beacon it is a slight that endangers the close U.S.-Israel alliance at a time when the world’s only Jewish state is facing down multiple terrorist threats.

Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that he hopes Biden calls Netanyahu soon.

"Strong partnerships with our allies like Israel must always remain a top priority for America," McCaul said.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), a top HFAC Republican, described Biden’s thinking as "backwards," telling the Free Beacon he is "spending hours on the phone with China, but hasn’t bothered yet to call our nation’s greatest ally, Israel." Zeldin called on Biden to "correct his priorities fast."

Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon the situation "should worry every American that [Biden’s] more interested in a close relationship with our greatest adversary than our greatest ally."

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), another HFAC member, asked, "What is President Biden avoiding?"

"The American-Israeli relationship is vital to our national security for a litany of reasons," Jackson told the Free Beacon. "I urge President Biden to ignore the radical left in his party and make a strong show of support for our partnership with Israel by calling Prime Minister Netanyahu."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), who sits on both the HFAC and the House Judiciary Committee, demanded "tangible proof that this White House will be different" from the Obama administration, which he said "was openly hostile to Israel."

"I’m not sure why President Biden has already called world leaders from 10 other nations, including China, but hasn’t yet bothered to speak with Israel," Rep. Mark Green (R., Tenn.) told the Free Beacon, adding that "Israel deserves to be treated with respect from every world leader—especially the President of the United States."

Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R., Fla.), also on the HFAC, said the snub is "embarrassing. It is offensive. And should be corrected immediately."

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), ranking member of the House's Middle East Subcommittee, said Biden should be "reaching out to our allies," rather than holding calls with adversarial regimes like Russia and China. "I hope [Biden] makes this call soon," he said.