BY ILAN BEN ZION AND STUART WINER, Times of Israel—
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday congratulated Donald Trump on his election victory, saying the Republican is “a true friend of the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s remarks were released a few hours after Trump proclaimed victory over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in a surprise electoral coup.
“We will work together to advance security, stability and peace in our region,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“The bond between the US and Israel is based on shared values, shared interests and a shared future. I am sure that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the US and we will bring them to new heights,” he added.
Later Wednesday, Netanyahu released a video congratulating Trump.
The prime minister’s statement came on the heels of statements expressing a mix of optimism and wariness by Israeli politicians, many of whom joined Netanyahu in stressing the continued strengthening of the US-Israel ties.
President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Trump on his victory, which he said demonstrated that the US is the “greatest democracy.”
“There are many challenges that lie before you as president — at home and around the world. Israel, your greatest ally, stands by you as your friend and partner in turning those challenges into opportunities,” he said in a statement.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett was among the first Israeli leaders to congratulate Trump Wednesday morning, saying the Republican’s victory was “an opportunity” to do away once and for all with the pursuit of a two-state solution.
“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett said in a statement.
“This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple,” he said. “The era of a Palestinian state is over. We are sure the special relationship between the United States and Israel will continue, and even grow stronger.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he promised “to safeguard and strengthen the special relationship and courageous friendship between the countries and work to strengthen the shared values of Israel and the United States.”
Other right-wing politicians hailed Trump’s victory, saying they hoped it would translate into closer ties between Israel and the US. Opposition MKs, in contrast, voiced greater circumspection, with Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin saying, “Trump won not on the merit of the racist minority but on the merit of the angry majority.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu party, said that “Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, salutes the US, the oldest democracy in the world, on a democratic election process that expresses the will of the voter.
“We look forward to working jointly with the new American government to strengthen the strategic and economic ties between our countries.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, extended “warm congratulations to the president of the strongest and most powerful nation in the world: Donald J. Trump,” in a Facebook post published shortly after Trump celebrated his victory.
“The American democracy today chose to place at its forefront an American leader who taught the analysts and doubters that we are in a new era of change and a replacement of the old ruling elites! You did the unexpected against all the odds, the polls, and the research, and the prophets of the old era,” he said. “I am sure that the defense and economic cooperation with our strongest and most important ally will continue even more so during your presidency.”
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said Israeli lawmakers “look forward to working with President-elect Trump and building on the incredibly strong ties which bind our two nations together.
“Ours is a relationship based on shared values and mutual interests. I know he is deeply committed to those values and to the strategic relations between our two countries,” he said in a statement.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in his statement on behalf of the Israeli parliament that he was “confident that the longstanding friendship and alliance between the United States and Israel will remain strong.
“We send our best wishes to the American people and are certain that they will remain united in dealing with the challenges facing America and the world today,” he added.
Trump was considered by many right-wing Israelis as the more favorable candidate in terms of US-Israel relations.
Temple Mount activist and Likud MK Yehudah Glick invited Trump to visit the West Bank and the Mount “and to lead from the source of light and energy of the world dialogue of reconciliation, and world peace.” He said he hoped Trump would see that Jewish settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal by the international community and US government, were “the way to peace.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat urged Trump in a congratulatory letter to make good on his promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which no president has done despite repeated campaign promises.
“On behalf of the city of Jerusalem, I am writing to congratulate you on your victory,” he said. “I am confident that you will continue to empower our city by reaffirming its sovereignty by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, describing the president elect as “a true friend of Israel,” echoed Barkat’s call.
“I am sure that Trump knows how to courageously navigate the free world to successful goals in the global war on terror,” she said. “This is an opportunity for the American government to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. That would symbolize the close ties and brave friendship between the two countries.”