Netanyahu: US needs to reaffirm support for allies, including Saudi Arabia

The Israeli PM-designate said that part of the Democratic Party had moved “sharply” to the left, “in some cases, to a radical position and often against the wishes of a broad constituency in the public.”

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Incoming Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he wants US President Joe Biden to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to its “traditional allies” in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

“And I view that alliance with the United States as particularly important,” Netanyahu told Al Arabiya English in an interview.

To read the full transcript, click here.

Consecutive US administrations have voiced their “ironclad” commitment to the security of Israel, but cracks have appeared in recent years as divisions over Iran have led to increased US criticism of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

And after taking office in January 2021, Biden waited days before he called then-Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The veteran Israeli politician proceeded to lose power for much of the last two years, and observers and analysts said the Biden administration was relieved not to have to deal with Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

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But Netanyahu is back in power and is currently trying to form a new government, which will be made up of several controversial figures, including politicians that have previously been convicted for incitement against Arabs and support for terror groups.

Contrary to the swift congratulatory phone call Biden made to Brazil’s President-elect Lula, a leftist, Biden also waited before congratulating Netanyahu.

Biden and Netanyahu have known each other for over 40 years, something the Israeli prime minister plans to capitalize on.

One of his main goals will be to speak with “my friend of 40 years” to tell him that the US needs to double down on its support for its allies in the Middle East.

“Israel, of course, is there, and we’ve had a solid, unbreakable relationship. But I think that the traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries has to be reaffirmed,” Netanyahu said.

He added that there should not be “periodic swings” in this relationship because ties between US allies and with Washington are an anchor of stability in the region. “I think it requires periodic reaffirmation, and I’m to speak to President Biden about it,” Netanyahu said.

Ties with the US

Netanyahu was asked about growing dissent within the Democratic Party against Israel and if he agreed that Biden would be the “last pro-Israel Democratic president.”

He disagreed and pointed to public polls that state support for Israel among Democrats is “fairly high, but stable,” at around 50 percent.

Pushing back on the narrative that Republicans are pro-Israel while Democrats are not, Netanyahu said this was not the case. “It’s just that the Republicans have moved to a very strong Israeli position. Plus… [among] Democrats, independents, and Republicans, there is very strong and consistent support for the state of Israel.”

According to a Gallup poll at the start of 2022, around 55 percent of Americans surveyed said they sympathized with Israel as opposed to 26 percent with the Palestinians.

There have been multiple run-ins between the Israeli government and the Biden administration over cases such as the Israeli army’s killing of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh. The US Justice Department recently opened its own investigation into the slain reporter’s death, who was wearing a clearly visible flack jacket with “Press” written across it.

Democratic lawmakers were the most vocal about the need for accountability and justice in the aftermath of Abu Akleh’s killing. An 80-year-old Palestinian-American man also died in January after being taken into Israeli custody.

He did say that there was a part of the Democratic Party that had moved “sharply” to the left, “in some cases, to a radical position and often against the wishes of a broad constituency in the public.”

But he believes the attitude toward Israel will remain the same among most US lawmakers. “It’s changing among the chattering classes; it’s changing on the campuses. I don’t deny that, he said. “But I think that in many ways, it’s a lot firmer and a lot more stable across the American public, both Democrats and Republicans and independents alike.”

During the interview, Netanyahu also spoke about Iran and his willingness to take military action with or without agreement with the US to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “We didn’t do [previous attacks] with US approval because the US probably would disapprove,” he alleged.

Israel’s new government

Netanyahu also defended the inclusion of far-right Jewish supremacists in his new government, claiming many had “changed and moderated” their views.

As for the settlements in the West Bank being expanded under his watch, he said there was “a lot of misinformation” about what potential ministers would do. He said that he and his defense minister would make all the decisions.

“I will govern, and I will lead, and I will navigate this government. The other parties are joining me; I’m not joining them,” he said about the likes of Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir.

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