update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden, Netanyahu talk for first time since Dec. 23

The call reportedly lasted about 40 minutes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes President Joe Biden at Ben-Gurion Airport, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes President Joe Biden at Ben-Gurion Airport, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Friday for the first time since Dec. 23. The call lasted about 40 minutes, according to Axios.

The two address “ongoing efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas” and “reviewed the situation in Gaza and the shift to targeted operations that will enable the flow of increasing amounts of humanitarian assistance while keeping the military pressure on Hamas and its leaders,” per a White House readout. 

Biden “welcomed” Israel’s decision “to permit the shipment of flour for the Palestinian people directly through Ashdod port,” the readout added, “while our teams separately work on options for more direct maritime delivery of assistance into Gaza.”

Biden also talked about “recent progress in ensuring the Palestinian Authority’s revenues are available to pay salaries, including for the Palestinian security forces” in Judea and Samaria, the readout added.

“The president discussed Israel’s responsibility even as it maintains military pressure on Hamas and its leaders to reduce civilian harm and protect the innocent,” the White House added. Biden “also discussed his vision for a more durable peace and security for Israel fully integrated within the region and a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed.”

John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council of the White House, was asked yesterday during the White House press briefing when the two leaders last spoke.

“There has not been another call since the last one we read out.  I don’t have the exact date in front of me,” he told a reporter. “It’s been more than 20 days, I think.”

During the U.S. State Department press briefing on Jan. 18, Matthew Miller, the department’s spokesman, was asked if the “lack of leader-to-leader engagement of late suggest that diplomacy between the U.S. is faltering, or at an impasse, or simply that there’s nothing for the leaders to exchange views about?”

“I would not read too much into it,” Miller said. “I would not read too much into the tempo of those conversations.”

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