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Blinken calls to congratulate new PM Lapid, stresses US support for 2 states

While the prime minister was reportedly slated to receive a call from Biden, the two will likely wait to speak until the president lands in Israel next week

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Riga, Latvia, on March 7, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Riga, Latvia, on March 7, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday in the first public call between a senior White House official and Lapid since he took office last week.

Blinken congratulated Lapid on becoming prime minister and reaffirmed Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the US-Israel partnership, Israel’s security and to countering shared threats, including those from Iran,” the State Department said in a statement.

The top US diplomat “also emphasized US support for a negotiated two-state solution” and said that “Biden looks forward to celebrating our partnership with Israel during his upcoming visit.”

US President Joe Biden’s Twitter account posted a congratulatory message to Lapid at midnight between Thursday and Friday, the minute he officially replaced Naftali Bennett as prime minister.

Hebrew media reported at the time, citing Israeli officials, that Biden would call Lapid on Friday, but the Blinken conversation on Wednesday indicated the president would not be speaking to the prime minister until Biden lands in Israel for a visit next Wednesday. Biden will go to Israel and the West Bank during the three-day trip.

Lapid’s office has not reported receiving congratulatory phone calls from any world leaders since taking office. He met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday.

Statements from Biden officials have highlighted the administration’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but now the administration will for the first time be working with an Israeli prime minister who is openly supportive of the concept.

Former prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett both refused to publicly back the format for solving the conflict since Biden was elected. Netanyahu and Bennett both have close ties to the settlement movement.

Lapid has expressed willingness to make territorial compromises in order to establish a Palestinian state, but also opposes dividing any part of Jerusalem, which is seen as a non-starter for Palestinians, who view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Lapid will have little power to pass legislation while acting as caretaker prime minister, though. Israelis will go to the ballot box on November 1 for their fifth national election in under four years.

Lapid on Tuesday said he would not rule out meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but that there were currently no immediate plans for talks.

“The limits of what can be done given the current Palestinian leadership and Israel’s political unrest are clear to everyone,” he said.

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