Updated Dec 29, 2022 - World

Biden congratulates Netanyahu on his return to power in Israel

Then-Vice President Biden with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty

President Biden congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the swearing-in of his new government in a statement on Thursday, while stressing that the U.S. will "oppose policies that endanger" the two-state solution or "contradict our mutual interests and values."

Why it matters: Biden's congratulatory statement sets out terms for relations with the most right-wing government in Israel's history, which was sworn in Thursday with Netanyahu returning to the prime minister's post 18 months after he was ousted.

Between the lines: The new government reflects the rise of the Israeli extreme right. Two once-fringe figures known for expressing racist and Jewish supremacist views — Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir — have become senior ministers.

  • While it is not legally binding, the coalition agreement the various parties signed signals a hardline direction on issues related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  • U.S. officials are particularly concerned about potential steps to expand settlements and legalize outposts in the occupied West Bank, as well as laws that could challenge the rights of Israel's Arab minority and LGBTQ+ community.
  • White House officials say they have taken note of Netanyahu's statements that he will set government policy, rather than the more radical elements of his coalition.

What they're saying: In his statement, Biden said he'd been friends with Netanyahu for decades and hopes they can "jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including threats from Iran."

  • "The United States is working to promote a region that’s increasingly integrated, prosperous, and secure, with benefits for all of its people," Biden added.
  • The statement concludes, “as we have throughout my Administration, the United States will continue to support the two state solution [between Israelis and Palestinians] and to oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that he looked forward to working with the new Israeli government to "address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including the threat from Iran."

  • "The United States will remain committed to promoting equal measures of freedom, justice, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike," Blinken added.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Go deeper