JERUSALEM, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Just two weeks ago, Joe Biden
was the butt of a jibe made by U.S. President Donald Trump
during a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
"Do you think 'Sleepy Joe' could have made this deal?" Trump
asked Netanyahu in a televised phone call with his closest
foreign ally about a Middle East peace initiative.
Netanyahu demurred, apparently hedging in case of a Biden
victory. It was a wise move: Declared winner of the U.S.
presidential election by major television networks on Saturday,
Biden is the one laughing now.
The hawkish Israeli leader made no immediate comment after
the U.S. networks called the election for the former vice
president, and a picture of Netanyahu and Trump remained at the
top of the Israeli prime minister's Facebook page.
Trump, who has made repeated claims of electoral fraud
without providing proof, immediately accused Biden of "rushing
to falsely pose as the winner."
Still, Israeli Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn - a member of
Netanyahu's ruling coalition belonging to the centrist Blue and
White party - swiftly congratulated Biden.
"Congratulations to US President-elect Joe Biden!
Congratulations to Kamala Harris, the first woman to serve as
vice president and congratulations to the American people on the
proper democratic process," Nissenkorn said on Twitter.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid also offered his
congratulations to the Democrat on Twitter.
"The relationship between our countries is based on deeply
held values and critical shared interests which I know will be
at the heart of your administration," Lapid wrote.
Though Biden describes himself as a Zionist and friend to
nine Israeli prime ministers, friction could arise between a
Biden White House and Netanyahu, who famously feuded with
Biden's ex-boss, Barack Obama.
In what Israel would likely see as a de-facto third Obama
term, Biden has pledged to restore U.S. involvement in the Iran
nuclear deal and is likely to voice opposition to Israeli
settlement of occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.
That promises Netanyahu a policy whiplash after four years
of being in lockstep with Trump - deferred, perhaps, by the need
to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and U.S. economic woes first.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell;
Editing by Helen Popper)