HEADLINES:

Netanyahu urges Biden to 'strengthen' US-Israel alliance

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to Likud party MKs at the Knesset (Israel's parliament) in Jerusalem, December 2, 2020. Yonatan Sindel/Pool via REUTERS
2021-01-20

647 View

+ -

SULAIMANI — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday (January 20) urged new US President Joe Biden to "strengthen" a long-standing alliance between the two countries, partly to confront the "threat" posed by Iran.

"I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader was speaking in a video congratulating Biden moments after he was sworn in as US president, replacing Donald Trump.

Netanyahu, who has referred to Trump as the "best friend" Israel has had in the White House, noted Wednesday that he had "a warm personal friendship going back many decades" with Biden.

Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said it was "not sorry" to see Trump depart, calling him "the world's main source and sponsor of oppression, violence and extremism" and partner in "Israeli aggression" against the Palestinians.

Biden "must correct the wrong historical path of American policy which is oppressing our people," and end policies aiming at "destroying the Palestinian cause", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

The Palestinian presidency lashed out at Netanyahu, who on Sunday announced that Israel approved 780 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, ahead of a March general election.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by much of the international community.

But Trump's administration, breaking with decades of US policy, declared in late 2019 that Washington no longer considered settlements as being in breach of international law.

"Netanyahu is welcoming Biden with settlements," said Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, on Wednesday.

"His only aim is to destroy the two-state solution."

Under Trump, the United States also recognised Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital and moved its embassy there, sparking Palestinian outrage.

"We hope that the presence of Biden will be a chance to apply international law and resolve the conflict, establishing an independent Palestinian state and putting an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people," said Jibril Rajub, a senior official from Abbas' Fatah party.

Trump's administration also withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and imposed tough new sanctions on the Islamic republic, Israel's arch foe.

Israel welcomed the moves and encouraged Europe to follow suit.

But Biden's nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Tuesday the incoming administration was ready to return to the deal as long as Iran respects its commitments.

The Jewish state has also reached a series of normalisation agreements with its Arab neighbours under the Trump administration.

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)