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White House says no 'specific date' yet for Biden-Netanyahu call

Biden kept some leaders who were cozy with predecessor Donald Trump at arm's length [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2021

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US President Joe Biden has not set a specific date to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said.

President Joe Biden will talk "soon" with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has no specific plan to do so yet, the White House said Thursday, underlining an apparent distancing in the key relationship.

Three weeks into his presidency, Biden has pointedly reached out to a raft of traditional US allies but kept some leaders who were particularly cozy with his predecessor Donald Trump at arm's length.

"The president looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

"He'll be talking with him soon. I don't have a specific date or time for you on that call," she said.

She noted the "important relationship" and called Israel "a key partner."

In a return to the traditional US stance before Trump, the State Department made clear its opposition to further Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.

"It is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"Unilateral steps might include annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, the provision of compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism," he said, also referring to the Palestinians' fund that pays inmates in Israeli incarceration or their families.

Price also said there had been no changes in one of the moves by Trump, who allowed US citizens to write "Jerusalem, Israel" in their passports if they were born in the contested holy city.

Price said that the final status of Jerusalem needed to be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians in direct negotiations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already said that the Biden administration will not reverse Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Biden finally spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, highlighting the many disagreements between the world's two biggest economic powers - and growing rivals.

Biden did, however, make up for Xi's long wait, talking for "two straight hours," he told reporters Thursday.

Two of Trump's favorite foreign leaders, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, are still waiting for Biden to call.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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