Netanyahu speaks to Biden for first time in 27 days amid growing divide over war

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Pool Photo via AP)
US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just got off the phone with US President Joe Biden, the White House says, in what was their first conversation in 27 days.

There is no immediate readout from either side, but Hebrew media reports that the conversation lasted for nearly 40 minutes and was held in good spirits.

While the US has continued to support Israel’s war against Hamas, divides have become increasingly glaring over Washington’s post-war vision for the Palestinian Authority to replace Hamas as the governing body as part of a broader initiative aimed at an eventual two-state solution.

Netanyahu reportedly rejected a US proposal, presented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he visited earlier this month, that would have seen Saudi Arabia help with the reconstruction of Gaza along with several other Arab countries in addition to agreeing to normalize ties with Israel, on the condition that Jerusalem agree to take steps to create a pathway to an eventual Palestinian state.

In their last phone call on December 23, Biden was said to have lost his patience and ended the call abruptly after Netanyahu again dragged his feet regarding US demands that Israel release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that it has been withholding from the PA.

The cabinet is reportedly slated to vote on a proposal to transfer those funds in the coming days.

In their latest call, the White House says that the pair discussed developments regarding the war in Gaza.

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