WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his coalition partners moments after they were sworn in, saying in a statement he “looks forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”
Biden was the first world leader to react to the swearing-in, which ended Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 years as prime minister.
“Israel has no better friend than the United States,” Biden said. “The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.”
Biden added his administration was “fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”
Bennett issued a statement thanking the president and saying that he looked forward to working with him to strengthen ties between their two countries.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also issued his congratulations, saying he was looking forward to working with Bennett and Lapid. "Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel‘s side," Kurz wrote on Twitter.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made a congratulatory statement as well, saying that he looked forward to "cooperation on security, trade and climate change, and working together to secure peace in the region."
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said she was looking forward to working with the new government.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office meanwhile had little to say about the new government, calling it an “internal Israeli affair.”
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Sunday that the Palestinian position remains “adherence to international legitimacy and the two-state solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile said the U.S. "warmly welcomes the announcement of a new government of the State of Israel." Blinken said the U.S. looks forward to working closely with Bennett, Lapid and the new Israeli cabinet. "The United States will continue to work with Israel to advance the cause of peace, and we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security." Blinken added that the U.S. looks forward to strengthening all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership and working together for a more secure and prosperous future.
Rep. Jerry Nadler added his congratulations to the "diverse, new Israeli government and looks forward to working together to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and advance our shared values."
Israeli officials were particularly concerned with Nadler's muted defense during the recent round of Gaza fighting, more so than any other Democratic lawmaker.
Sen. Chris Murphy, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, offered his congratulations on the formation of the "unlikely coalition," adding that he was hopeful the new government will be committed to a path back to the negotiating table toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lawmakers from both parties and both houses of Congress welcomed the news, including Democrats Sen. Jacky Rosen, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. Ted Deutch (chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism). Republicans to congratulate Bennett include Sens. Ted Cruz and Bill Hagerty.
Bennett will lead a coalition composed of parties from polar opposites of the Israeli political spectrum: from his own right-wing party to the centrist Yesh Atid, the leftist Labor and Meretz and the Islamist party, the United Arab List. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid is slated to take over the premiership in August 2023. Holding this fragile alliance together, with Netanyahu sniping from the opposition, will be a challenging task.
In a speech delivered at the Knesset before it voted on the formation of the new government, Netanyahu railed against Bennett, saying he would be incapable of standing up to Biden.
“In 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, Roosevelt refused to bomb the trains and gas [chambers], which could have saved many of our people. Today we have a voice, we have a country and we have a defensive force,” Netanyahu said, in an implicit rebuke of Biden.
“Bennett hasn’t got the international standing, the integrity, the capability, the knowledge and he hasn’t got the government to oppose the nuclear agreement. That is the biggest problem. An Israeli PM needs to be able to say no to the leader of the world’s superpower,” Netanyahu declared, asserting that he did not believe Bennett would be willing to take unilateral action against Iran if necessary.
Michael Hauser Tov contributed to this report.