After refusing last week to answer if Israel was an important ally, Biden’s press secretary says yes, but leaves Saudis hanging.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that Israel is still an important partner in American foreign policy, four days after dodging an answer to the question of whether the Biden administration still considers “the Saudis and the Israelis important allies.”
At the daily White House press briefing, Psaki gave her regular update and fielded 28 questions before a journalist asked her to answer the same question on Israel and Saudi Arabia, given that her “answer was interpreted by some as something other than ‘yes.’”
“Well, first let me say, on Israel, I know there’s been some questions about when the President will speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which was, I think, the root of that question or how the question started,” Psaki replied, addressing repeated concerns that Biden was purposefully ignoring the Israeli leader.
“So let me first confirm for you that his first call with a leader in the region will be with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It will be soon. I don’t have an exact day for you, but it is soon. Stay tuned,” Psaki said. She then answered the question as to whether or not Israel is an ally of the United States.
“Israel is, of course, an ally. Israel is a country where we have an important strategic security relationship,” Psaki said. “And our team is fully engaged — not at the head-of-state, yet, level quite yet, but very soon. But our team is fully engaged, having constant conversations at many levels with the Israelis.”
However, on the subject of Saudi Arabia with which the Trump administration had close ties, Psaki said the Biden administration was rethinking policy.
“On Saudi Arabia, I would say: You know, we’ve made clear from the beginning that we’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia and that — you know, President Biden — one of the questions there was also — just to go back to the context of it — whether he would be speaking with MBS,” Psaki said, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
“Saudi Arabia is in a position where they’re defending themselves from threats from the region,” Psaki explained. “You know, they are — they have critical self-defense needs, and we will continue to work with them on those, even as we make clear areas where we have disagreements and where we have concerns. And that’s certainly a shift from the approach of the prior administration.”