Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro explained in a lengthy Twitter thread on Thursday that there is no crisis between the US and Israel, despite the fact that President Joe Biden has not yet called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Shapiro, who served as Ambassador to Israel when Biden was Vice President, explained that the reason for Biden not having yet called Netanyahu is the President’s focus on key issues over which he was elected.
“Throughout the election and the transition, and since Jan. 20, Biden has made very clear what his priorities are, the issues he was elected by the American people to address, and which expects them to judge him on. He's been disciplined & consistent about focusing on them,” wrote Shapiro.
“At home, his priorities are: delivering America from the COVID-19 pandemic; providing desperately needed economic relief; addressing the crisis of system racism highlighted by last summer's protests; and building a government focused on fighting climate change.”
“Abroad, his priorities are: revitalizing our core alliances in NATO & Asia, which were so damaged by Trump; restoring US global leadership on transnational issues (COVID, climate, refugees, nonprolif, democratic recession); the global challenge of China; &an aggressive Russia,” the former Ambassador continued.
He stressed that “The Middle East is not unimportant. Israel is not unimportant. Of course, Iran will get early attention. But they're not in the same top tier of priorities as these emergencies and urgent matters.”
Shapiro also noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have all spoken to their Israeli counterparts, and that Blinken has done so twice.
“The State Department issued a strong statement supporting Israel against a proposed investigation of alleged war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The business of the bilateral relationship is being conducted daily in multiple channels,” continued the former Ambassador.
Biden himself, he explained, “has let his cabinet handle everything below the top tier of issues. He is focused on what is most urgent.”
Shapiro listed 12 calls that Biden has made to world leaders, including Russia and China, who he described as “rivals/adversaries. But the US has major interests with both, issues we disagree on and areas where we must cooperate.”
He added that the 12 calls are “all consistent with the priorities laid out above. Should Israel be a top 12 call in that prioritization? It's a crucial partner. But that's a hard case to make. The call will be soon, still likely in the first 15 calls, when Biden moves beyond top priorities.”
Noting that many are “determined to inject drama into this utterly undramatic story”, Shapiro said, “I think that's nonsense. Biden has a lifelong commitment to the US-Israel relationship, and that won't change now.”
“The real issue is that Biden has become president at an extraordinary moment in our nation's history. He's focused on the most urgent things first. Other (also important) things, he'll deal with a bit later & has had his cabinet tend to them until now. So everyone chill out,” he concluded.
Earlier on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden would call Netanyahu "soon."
"The President looks forward to speaking with Netanyahu. He's obviously somebody that he has a longstanding relationship with. And, obviously, there's an important relationship that the United States has with Israel on the security front and as a key partner in the region. He will be talking with him soon, I don't have a specific date or time," Psaki said in response to a reporter's question as to why Biden had not called Netanyahu yet despite having been in office for three weeks.
Biden's continued delay in contacting the leader of Israel has raised serious concerns in Israel. On Wednesday, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon tweeted Netanyahu's phone number and urged Biden to finally call the Israeli premier.
Following criticism over his tweet, Danon said in an interview with Galei Zahal (Army Radio) on Thursday, "I accept the criticism, and it may be that the choice of words was not successful - but I still believe in the message."