Netanyahu speaks to Harris, tells her he won’t allow Iran to obtain nukes

US vice president condemns ICC decision to investigate Israel for war crimes, congratulates premier for successful vaccine drive, PM’s office says

By TOI STAFF and JACOB MAGIDToday, 1:25 am  2Sen.

Sen. Kamala Harris, left, hosted by Israeli PM Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office, November 2017 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Kamala Harris, left, hosted by Israeli PM Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office, November 2017 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday spoke to US Vice President Kamala Harris, with the conversation focusing on the pandemic, the Iranian nuclear program, and the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into Israel over alleged war crimes, his office said.

The call, the first between them since the inauguration, came a day after the ICC announced it would investigate Israel and Palestinian terror groups over alleged war crimes and as the Biden administration seeks to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu’s office said Harris “expressed the total opposition of the American administration to the decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”

The US State Department has condemned the ICC’s decision and argued the court lacks the jurisdiction to launch a probe.

A demonstrator poses with a Palestinian flag outside the International Criminal Court, ICC, during a rally urging the court to prosecute Israel’s army for war crimes, in The Hague, Netherlands, November 29, 2019. (AP/Peter Dejong)

“The prime minister said we would continue to strengthen our intelligence and security cooperation and said during their conversation that as prime minister of Israel, he is totally committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons that are meant for our destruction,” his office said.

The readout from Harris’s office said the two agreed to continue cooperating on the Iran nuclear issue “and the regime’s dangerous regional behavior.”

US President Joe Biden has said he intends to re-enter the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, setting him and Netanyahu on a potential collision course. Netanyahu strongly opposed the deal when it was made, and hailed former president Donald Trump’s decision to quit it in 2018.

Harris also congratulated Netanyahu on Israel’s successful vaccine program, the PMO said, and the two agreed to boost cooperation between the US and Israel on the coronavirus, water, green energy and other initiatives.

Nearly 4.9 million Israelis have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and over 3.6 million got both shots as of Thursday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Harris’s readout made no mention of the kind words regarding the vaccine program, but did say that the vice president underscored the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to the US-Israel partnership [along with] the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

Another discrepancy in the readouts was on the regional peace process. Like Biden, Harris mentioned the importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace. But in both of the PMO’s readouts from the calls, the Palestinians went unmentioned.

Biden phoned Netanyahu in mid-February for the first time since he entered office.

Netanyahu was the first Middle Eastern leader to receive a call from Biden, but the 12th world leader overall. The long weeks of silence since Biden took office had led many to wonder whether the White House was snubbing its longtime ally, given Netanyahu’s frosty relationship with former Democratic president Barack Obama and his overwhelmingly warm ties with the more recent Donald Trump.

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