The United States will judge the incoming Israeli government by its policies, not its personalities, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Washington as he “congratulated” prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu for his declaration on the formation of a new Israeli government.
“We will engage with and judge our partners in Israel on the basis of the policies they pursue, not the personalities that happen to form the government,” Blinken said as he addressed concerns about how a center-left US government would work with the far-right Israeli one that Netanyahu has formed.
At issue, in particular, is the new government’s stance with respect to the advancement of West Bank settlement building and policies that advance annexation.
Concern has also been raised about the new government’s commitment to the protection of the rights of women and minorities – including those of Israeli Arabs and the LGBTQ community.
In his brief remarks, Blinken referenced both the Palestinians and the values common to both countries, noting that these shared principles were an important bond between Israel and the US.
“I think we’ve demonstrated over successive Israeli governments and over successive American administrations... that we can have very candid conversations when we disagree.”US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
“We look forward to working with Israel to advance both the interests and the values that have... long been at the heart of our relationship,” Blinken said.
The Biden administration also wants to promote with Israel “a broader approach to try to bring equal measures of security, of opportunity, of prosperity, of dignity to Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he added.
Blinken indicated that any disagreements between the Netanyahu government and the US would not impact the strong historic alliance between the two nations.
“We’ve demonstrated over successive Israeli governments and over successive American administrations, precisely because we have a rock-solid partnership and one that is committed to Israel’s security, that we can have very candid conversations when we disagree. That’s not going to change, either,” Blinken stated.
US President Joe Biden, who has a long-standing friendship with Netanyahu, called to congratulate Netanyahu last month after he won the November 1 election.
Netanyahu and Putin talk after Zelensky's US trip
On Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin called Netanyahu to congratulate him on forming a government, just a day after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made his highly publicized visit to Washington.
Details of Netanyahu’s call with Putin, who has become an international pariah in the West due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, were published Thursday morning by Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Netanyahu told Putin “he hopes a way will be found quickly to end the war [with Ukraine] and the suffering it has caused,” the Likud said.
The two also discussed regional issues such as Iran’s attempt to entrench itself militarily in Syria, which borders Israel. During his previous term as prime minister, Netanyahu worked out a deconfliction agreement with Russia whose army operates in Syria, to allow Israel to conduct aerial attacks against Iranian targets and their proxies without tangling with Russian forces. Netanyahu briefed outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid about the conversation.
Since Netanyahu left office in 2021, Russia has tightened its military alliance with Iran, which has provided Moscow with armed drones for its war in Ukraine.
Netanyahu told Putin he “is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to halt its attempts to establish a military base on our northern border.”
This is Putin’s first public call to Netanyahu since he won the election on November 1. It came as international attention was focused on Biden’s warm welcome to Zelensky at the White House and the standing ovation he received after addressing the US Congress.
When last in office, Netanyahu balanced strong ties with both Moscow and Washington, a move that will now be complicated by the war in Ukraine and Biden’s unabashed support for Kyiv.
Israel has been one of the countries that have attempted to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
According to the Kremlin, the two men “expressed confidence that Russian-Israeli relations will continue to develop consistently through contacts at different levels.”
Putin also sent Hanukkah greetings to “Netanyahu and all the Israeli people.”