Biden congratulates Israel's Bennett in telephone call

US President Joe Biden on Sunday offered incoming Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett his “warm congratulations” in telephone talks, the White House said, after an alliance of parties ousted Benjamin Netanyahu and formed a new government.

“I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” Biden said in a statement issued shortly before the call.

“Israel has no better friend than the United States.”

Bennett responded not long afterwards on Twitter, saying: “Thank you Mr. President! I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”

In the telephone talks, Biden “highlighted his decades of steadfast support for the US-Israel relationship and his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” the White House said.

“The president also conveyed that his administration intends to work closely with the Israeli government on efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians,” it added.

“The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran,” the White House noted.

Bennett said he considers Biden “a great friend of the State of Israel,” according to a readout from his team. 

A right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, Bennett is taking over at the helm of an Israeli government pieced together by an eight-party coalition, united only by their shared disdain for the hawkish right-wing Netanyahu.

In a Knesset speech before the vote, the 49-year-old Bennett promised the new government, a coalition of ideologically divergent parties, “represents all of Israel.”

Separately, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin congratulated Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz, who will remain in his post in the new government.

Austin said he “looks forward to continuing the important cooperation and dialogue with Minister Gantz to deepen the US-Israel strategic partnership,” adding: “The US commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad.”

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