What will Trump mean for Israel?
Netanyahu hails new era.
Israel welcomed the inauguration of President Donald Trump after eight, often tense, years with the Obama administration, vowing to make the alliance between Israel and the U.S. “greater than ever” and heralding the start of “a new era.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preempted the inauguration to offer his congratulations to “President Trump,” apparently because the inauguration took place after the Sabbath had started in Israel.
He tweeted “Congrats to my friend President Trump. Look fwd to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel & USA stronger than ever.”
That was echoed almost immediately after the inauguration by Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, who tweeted: “Congratulations President Trump! Israel looks forward to working with you to make the U.s.-israel alliance greater than ever.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said this would herald a sea change, particularly at the United Nations, where in December Israel suffered one of its worst reverses in recent years, when then-president Barack Obama refused to use the U.S. veto in a resolution that condemned Israeli settlements.
“A true friend of Israel will enter the White House today,” said Danon in a statement. “Thank you President Trump for your unequivocal support, we look forward to welcoming you to our capital of Jerusalem.
“After the shameful resolution that was adopted by the Security Council, Israel looks forward to strengthening our most important alliance and leading together towards a new era at the UN,” he said.
But while Israel’s leaders enthused, analysts suggested a more cautious approach, saying that despite all his pro-israel pronouncements, Trump was still an unknown quantity for Israel.
“We have to ask if such an isolationist president will be good for Israel; will he have the patience for us,” said Channel 2’s lead anchor Yonit Levi after Trump again promised in his inaugural address to always put America’s interests first.
Channel 2 foreign editor Arad Nir highlighted Trump’s use of the term “America First” in his address, with its echoes of World War II era anti-semitic connotations and his support from far-right groups.
And diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal highlighted several areas that could be of concern for Israel.
“Will his close ties with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin end up leading to a permanent Iranian role in Syria?” Segal asked. Russia has very close ties with both Iran and Syria and Israel is adamant that arch-enemy Iran not establish a significant presence in its war-torn northern neighbour.
Segal also highlighted the different attitude the Trump administration will take regarding Israeli settlers. Trump’s new ambassador is a strong supporter of the settlements and a delegation of settlement leaders attended the inauguration.
“I definitely agree that we are now getting the VIP treatment, which is something that we have been working on for many years,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israel’s more than 120 West Bank settlements. “You could basically argue that it has taken 50 years, since 1967, to be recognized on such a level for such an event,” he told a news agency.
The third key area is Jerusalem. Trump promised to move his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Members of the Israeli government have been vocally supportive of the plan to move the embassy, which Trump vowed to do while on the campaign trail and after his victory in November.
The politically charged move has, however, caused outrage among Palestinians who see part of Jerusalem as their future capital, and it was indirectly condemned by foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
According to a report Jan. 20 in Ha’aretz newspaper, officials from the IDF, police and Shin Bet earlier last week presented Netanyahu and senior members of the cabinet – among them Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan – with scenarios that could result from relocating the embassy.
The prime minister instructed the security officials to prepare for such a possibility from the moment that the new president is sworn in.
Ha’aretz quoted two senior Israeli officials familiar with topics raised at the meeting as saying that Netanyahu and others present made it clear that Israel has no solid information on if and when Trump will issue a notice to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem.
One of the officials said Netanyahu has spoken with Trump by phone several times since the election, (they also spoke by phone on Jan. 22) but at the time of the meeting, had not received a clear answer from the new president about the timing of an embassy relocation
According to Ha’aretz, the two officials said that the purpose of the meeting was to prepare for possible repercussions from the relocation of the embassy, particularly in light of a media campaign being waged against it by the Palestinian Authority. One of the officials said there has even been explicit incitement to violence by Palestinian officials in recent weeks regarding the matter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu