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PM’s office mum on plans to call Biden as other world leaders hold talks

Diplomatic source says phone calls won’t be discussed before they occur; Netanyahu and Trump spoke within hours of electoral victory in 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone during a weekly cabinet meeting held on the Golan Heights, April 17, 2016. (Moav Vardi)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the phone during a weekly cabinet meeting held on the Golan Heights, April 17, 2016. (Moav Vardi)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office refused to say Thursday if there were any plans for the premier to speak to US President-elect Joe Biden, even as the incoming American leader has held talks with several other heads of state.

This lack of contact stands in sharp relief with Netanyahu’s first conversation with outgoing US President Donald Trump, which took place mere hours after he was declared the winner of the presidential race in 2016.

Netanyahu has walked a tightrope between Trump, who has refused to concede the race and with whom he enjoyed close ties, and Biden’s incoming administration. On Sunday, he congratulated Biden, though pointedly did not call him president-elect and did not explicitly state that the former vice president had won the election.

Netanyahu is said to fear angering Trump, who is known for mercurial outbursts against allies and will remain in power until January.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu denied any partisan tilt in his approach to US administrations, saying: ‘Democrats and Republicans, makes no difference’.

Biden has held talks with at least nine world leaders as of Wednesday evening, according to public statements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

An Israeli diplomatic source said it was not normal practice to discuss phone calls to foreign leaders before they take place.

Biden promised in his victory speech Saturday to “make America respected around the world again,” after four years of Trump’s isolationist and transactional policies.

He held talks Wednesday with key Asian and Pacific allies after speaking earlier in the week with leaders in Europe and Canada.

The talks have focused on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other issues, even as Trump’s refusal to concede complicates the US post-election transition.

In his conversations with leaders of South Korea, Japan and Australia, Biden seemed intent on easing their uncertainties about a less-engaged Washington, which built up during the four years of Trump’s “America First” approach.

US President-elect Joe Biden waves as he leaves The Queen theater, in Wilmington, Delaware, November 10, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Biden during their 14-minute call reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and said he would closely coordinate with Seoul in a push to defuse a nuclear standoff with North Korea.

Biden’s office said he expressed his desire to strengthen the US-South Korea alliance as a “linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he invited Biden to Australia next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the countries’ shared defense treaty. Morrison said he and Biden during their call made clear their commitment to strengthening the bilateral alliance.

Biden said he looked forward to working closely with Morrison “on many common challenges, including containing the COVID-19 pandemic and guarding against future global health threats; confronting climate change; laying the groundwork for the global economic recovery; strengthening democracy, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” according to his office.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a virtual summit meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, August 5, 2020. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he and Biden during their call reaffirmed the importance of their countries’ alliance and agreed to further deepen it in face of China’s growing influence and North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Biden’s office said the leaders “spoke about their shared commitment to tackle climate change, strengthen democracy around the world, and reinforce the US-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific region.”

Earlier this week French President Emmanuel Macron met with Biden via videoconference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin have also spoken with him.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first leader to speak with Biden after the election victory, his office said at the time.

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