WH: Biden's first Mideast call to be Netanyahu

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden's first call to Middle East leaders will be with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Psaki also said the White House was recalibrating the relationship with Saudi Arabia. (Feb. 16)

Video Transcript

- The colleague who sat in this chair last week asked you a question about whether you think this administration sees Saudi Arabia or Israel as allies of the United States. Your answer was interpreted by some as something other than yes. So I want to give you an opportunity to answer that question more directly and now.

JEN PSAKI: 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. 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.

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. But our team is fully engaged, having constant conversations at many levels with the Israelis.

And 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, on one of the questions there, was also, just to go back to the context of it, whether he would be speaking with [INAUDIBLE], and part of that is going back to engagement counterpart to counterpart. The president's counterpart is King Salman, and I expect in an appropriate of time, he would have a conversation with him.

I don't have a prediction of the timeline on that, but I'll also say that, you know, we have-- Saudi Arabia is in a position where they are defending themselves from threats from the region. 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. OK, go ahead.