US PRESIDENT Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they pose in the Rose Garden at the White House this week.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
US President Donald Trump, who gifted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights just two weeks before the elections, congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory on Wednesday and said it is good for peace.
“I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu, it looks like that race has been won by him. It may be a little early, but it looks like he’s won it in good fashion,” he told reporters at the White House.
Trump called Netanyahu a “great ally” and “a friend,” and characterized the campaign as “a well thought out race.”
Trump also said that Netanyahu's re-election will improve the chances of peace in the region.
“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace.” he said. “Everybody said, and I never made it a promise, ‘you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians.’ But I think we have a chance, and I think now we have a better chance with Bibi having won.”
US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Wednesday that the US administration will roll out its long-awaited peace plan in the “very near future.”
The US president, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, phoned Netanyahu from Air Force One to “warmly” congratulate him, and pledged to work closely together in the coming years for the benefit of both countries.
Netanyahu thanked Trump for his “tremendous support” for Israel, including the Golan recognition, and his firm stance against the Iranian regime, including his decision on Monday to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on America’s terrorist blacklist.
US Senator Ted Cruz also tweeted a congratulatory message to Netanyahu, and along the way took a swipe at Democratic presidential challenger Beto O’Rourke, whom he defeated in Texas’ 2018 senatorial race.
"Now that the Israeli voters have re-elected Prime Minister Netanyahu—to a record FIFTH term—does Beto stand by his vicious slur accusing Bibi (and, presumably the majority of Israeli voters) of being “racists”? Does the rest of the Dem 2020 field agree?" Cruz wrote.
O’Rourke last week slammed Netanyahu as a “racist” who “wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power." The presidential hopeful also said that he did not think Netanyahu "represents the true will of the Israeli people" or the "best interests" of the US-Israel relationship.
Senator Lindsey Graham articulated a diametrically opposing view of Netanyahu in a twitter post of his own, after congratulating Netanyahu for his “strong showing” in the election.
“Bibi is a strong leader, and America has no better friend and ally than Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he said. He also congratulated Blue and WHite leader Benny Gantz for his “strong showing,” adding that he looks forward “to continue working with Israel to enhance our strong relationship."
Trump was among a number of international leaders who sent congratulatory messages to Netanyahu, primarily from right wing politicians who are among his closest allies.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who himself is in the midst of an election campaign – with voting there to start on Thursday – tweeted: “My dear friend Bibi, Congratulations! You are a great friend of India, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to take our bilateral partnership to new heights.”
Modi, with whom Netanyahu has forged a close relationship, then tweeted the same message in Hebrew.
Another leader with whom Netanyahu has developed a close relationship, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, was the first leader to tweet his goodwill wishes: “Congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu for an excellent showing in yesterday's national elections. While the official results have yet not been published, one matter is clear: you have - once again - gained the trust of the people of Israel in record numbers.”
Italy's far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who met Netanyahu in December, also took to social media to congratulate the prime minister, writing on twitter: "Good job to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and a hug to the people of Israel."
A less enthusiastic response came from Berlin, where Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin will “work closely, cordially and faithfully with the new Israeli government." He added that Germany was waiting for the final results of the election.
Israel, he said, “lies in a region with enormous challenges, which is why it's important to form a government quickly."
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