On Day 28, Biden finally spoke with the Israeli Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He also “recalibrated” with Saudi Arabia, while Vice President Kamala Harris was busy carving out a major foreign policy portfolio of her own.
Biden Calls Netanyahu (At Last).
President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday amid criticism for breaking precedent with recent administrations and not calling Israel’s leader immediately upon taking office.
The White House readout, similar in substance to that issued by President Donald Trump in 2017, mentions Biden’s personal history of support for Israel, consultation on regional security issues, and support for recent peace accords accomplished by the Trump team.
The prime minister’s office confirmed that the call was “very warm and friendly and continued for approximately one hour,” adding that Biden and Netanyahu had also discussed the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Recalibrating” Relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Biden is looking to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia by knocking Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) down a rung, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday:
“We’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia and that—you know, President Biden—one of the questions there was also… whether he would be speaking with MBS. And part of that is going back to engagement, counterpart to counterpart. The President’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that, in appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him. I don’t have a prediction of the timeline on that.”
While in office, Trump established a warm relationship with MBS, meeting with the crown prince in March 2018 and June 2019 and referring to him as a “friend of mine” who was doing “a spectacular job.” Trump was criticized in January 2020 for failing to disclose an Oval Office meeting with Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman before photos of the meeting were released by Saudi Arabia.
Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has pledged to declassify an intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the contents of which could add complications to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia under Biden.
She’s Number One!
“Nothing about Kamala Harris is number two.” This admission came from Lateefah Simon, a close friend and mentee of Vice President Kamala Harris, to ABC News.
Harris reportedly spends several hours each day with Biden, with frequent pull-asides before and after group meetings, and is living indefinitely across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at Blair House. Harris is actively stepping up her role in foreign diplomacy, including by holding solo phone calls with foreign leaders. On Wednesday morning, she struggled through questions on school reopenings, apparently avoiding any statement on teachers except that they should be a priority for vaccination.
When asked about his relationship with Harris in December 2020, Biden quipped that “if I reached something where there’s a fundamental disagreement we have based on a moral principle, I’ll develop some disease and say I have to resign.”