U.S. President Joe Biden's first call with a Middle East leader will be with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and it will be soon, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
"Israel is of course an ally. Israel is a country where we have an important strategic security relationship, and our team is fully engaged, not at the head of state level quite yet but very soon," Psaki told reporters.
Some critics have accused Biden of snubbing Netanyahu for having not yet spoken to the leader of the top U.S. ally in the Middle East nearly a month after taking office.
Biden's predecessors, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, both could the Israeli leader just days after assuming office.
Trump was a close ally of Netanyahu and moved U.S. relations to a strong pro-Israel position with little to no contact with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu on Monday acknowledged differences with U.S. President Joe Biden over Iranian and Palestinian issues, but said they enjoy a "very strong" working relationship.
Netanyahu dismissed any notion that Biden was intentionally excluding him, telling Channel 12: "He'll call ... We have had very strong, friendly relations for nearly 40 years, dating from the time I came to Washington as an Israeli diplomatic representative and he was a young senator from Delaware."
Speaking to Channel 12's Meet The Press on Saturday, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Gilad Erdan also sought to play down the prolonged lull between the two leaders, saying Biden was preoccupied with internal affairs such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic fallout.