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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington June 17, 2022. ― AFP pic

Wednesday, 22 Jun 2022 8:31 AM MYT

WASHINGTON, June 22 ― US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday promised strong support for Israel as the ally heads to its fifth election in less than four years.

In a telephone call to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who will become caretaker prime minister in an unwieldy coalition arrangement, Blinken confirmed that President Joe Biden still plans to visit Israel next month.

Blinken “underscored our respect for democratic processes and reiterated our unwavering commitment to the strong US-Israel strategic relationship,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Blinken “emphasised our continuing close coordination on regional and global issues,” he said.

Price earlier told reporters: “The strength of our relationship does not depend on who sits in the Oval Office. It doesn’t depend on who sits in the prime minister’s chair in Israel.”

The snap election could see a comeback bid by Benjamin Netanyahu, the veteran right-wing politician who had a tense relationship with former US president Barack Obama, under whom Biden was vice president.

The coalition government led by the right-wing Naftali Bennett and centrist Lapid had sought to tone down and depoliticize Israel’s relations with the United States, Israel’s crucial ally.

Netanyahu had rallied behind the US Republican Party, especially in its hawkish line on Iran and opposition to a nuclear deal with Tehran negotiated under Obama.

Netanyahu’s stance and Israel’s rightward turn in handling the Palestinian issue have alienated left-leaning members of Biden’s Democratic Party, which historically supported Israel. ― AFP