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Netanyahu, in slip, almost refers to Biden as ‘president’

PM, who has refrained from explicitly saying Democrat has won US election, quickly corrects himself, says Biden ‘supposed to be appointed the next president’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came close Monday to calling Joe Biden the US president or president-elect, but corrected himself at the last second.

Despite offering his congratulations to Biden, Netanyahu has so far refrained from explicitly stating that the former US vice president and Delaware senator won the elections.

He has also not spoken with Biden, and was asked about this by a journalist during a (Hebrew) press conference he held in Jerusalem.

“I have been told that in the very near future I will talk with the president…,” the premier answered, before abruptly stopping and correcting himself: “…er, with Joe Biden, who is supposed to be appointed the next president.”

Netanyahu refused to respond to another part of the question asking him what he thought about President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that widespread fraud was committed and that he had won the election.

“We have enough politics over here,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu waited more than 12 hours after US media networks called the presidency for Biden on November 7 before issuing a statement congratulating him, and even then without specifying what for, leading to assessments that he does not want to anger Trump, who still has a few months left in his presidency, by acknowledging his rival’s victory.

In his tweets and public remarks ever since, Netanyahu has not addressed Biden as “president-elect.”

Netanyahu had built a close relationship with Trump and his administration, which reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and removing opposition to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s close ties with Trump and Republicans in his corner have led to concerns of a loss of bipartisan support for Israel in Washington. Netanyahu denied this week, declaring: “Democrats and Republicans, it makes no difference.”

Trump has refused to concede defeat, making unsubstantiated allegations of serious fraud and vowing to take his case to the courts.

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