Washington, D.C. – US President Joe Biden has said he looks forward to working with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governmentignoring concerns about the inclusion of far-right Israeli politicians accused of racism in the new cabinet.

Biden called Netanyahu his “friend for decades” in a statement on Thursday, saying he will work with the Israeli government to jointly address challenges in the Middle East, including “threats from Iran.”

“From the beginning of my administration, we have worked with partners to promote this more hopeful vision of a region at peace, including between Israelis and Palestinians,” the US president said.

“We aim to continue this important work with Israel’s new government under Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The Biden administration has been reluctant to express any criticism of Israel, with top officials repeatedly stressing that US support for its Middle Eastern ally is “unprotected.”

On Thursday, Biden reaffirmed Washington’s verbal support for the two-state solution, even though the Netanyahu administration had openly said settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank its top priority.

Palestinian rights advocates say the settlements, which are illegal under international law, have made it nearly impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state.

“As we have done during my administration, the United States will continue to support the two-state solution and oppose policies that jeopardize its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values,” Biden said Thursday.

Netanyahu gave top positions to far-right politicians Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir in his new cabinet, which was sworn in on Thursday.

Smotrich, a leader of the settlement movement, was named finance minister, and Ben-Gvir was named national security minister – roles in which they will have significant influence over Israel’s policy toward Palestinians.

“It is no exaggeration to say that pyromaniacs are taking responsibility for an already incendiary, deteriorating situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” said J Street, a Jewish-American group that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro- peace. a statement Thursday.

Last month, the State Department denounced Ben-Gvir for attending an event honoring Meir Kahane, a far-right rabbi who incited violent attacks against Palestinians and Arab Americans.

At the memorial, Ben-Gvir Khane, who founded the Jewish Defense League, praised a group linked to the murder of Alex Odeha regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a civil rights organization.

Ben-Gvir, known for his racist statements against Palestinians, hung a photo in his living room of a gunman who dozens of worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque according to Israeli and international media reports in Hebron in 1994 and even in 2020.

Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power Party was part of the right-wing coalition that brought Netanyahu back to power after the November election.

Initially, Washington implicitly expressed concern about the possible inclusion from Ben Gvir in the cabinet. In November, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington hoped that “all Israeli government officials will continue to share the values ​​of an open, democratic society, including tolerance and respect for all in civil society, especially for minority groups”.

But in the weeks that followed, the Biden administration changed its stance, saying it will judge the Israeli government by policy, not “individual personalities.”

“Our relationship with Israel is rock solid; it is versatile; it is, of course, based on interest. But it’s also always been based on values,” Price said earlier this month.

On Thursday, Abed Ayoub, the executive director of the US-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, criticized Biden’s welcome to the new Israeli administration.

“President Biden’s statement is not based on any reality and completely ignores the fact that the new Israeli government is made up of dangerous religious extremists and terrorists who pose a direct threat to Palestinians and Arabs around the world,” Ayoub told Al Jazeera.



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