US election result: Netanyahu congratulates Biden – but Twitter picture with Trump remains

Israeli prime minister thanks president ‘for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights’

Harry Cockburn
Sunday 08 November 2020 16:45 GMT
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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at the announcement of the Middle East peace plan in January
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at the announcement of the Middle East peace plan in January (AFP via Getty)
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Twelve hours after news networks in the US called Joe Biden the victor in the race for the White House, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered his congratulations to the president-elect and his vice-president elect, Kamala Harris.

In a tweet, Mr Netanyahu pointed to his “long and warm personal relationship” with Mr Biden and described him as a “great friend of Israel”.

The win for Mr Biden comes after four years of close political alignment between the US and Israel under Donald Trump’s administration.

Soon after congratulating Mr Biden, Mr Netanyahu tweeted his thanks to Mr Trump.

He wrote: “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognising Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights.”

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Mr Trump’s failure to win re-election will be a blow to Mr Netanyahu’s administration. The importance of the relationship with the US is underscored by Mr Netanyahu’s Twitter profile banner picture which, at the time of writing, remains of the prime minister sitting next to Mr Trump during a meeting at the White House.

Netanyahu’s Twitter profile banner picture features Trump
Netanyahu’s Twitter profile banner picture features Trump (Twitter)

A spokesperson for Mr Netanyahu did not respond to a request for comment on the relative delay in congratulating the president-elect. Dani Dayan, Israel’s former consul to New York, said Mr Netanyahu’s slowed response was a precautionary move.

“There is a president in the White House who has not yet acknowledged his defeat and whose whims definitely play a major role in his decision-making process, and he will be sitting in the White House for another two and a half months,” Mr Dayan told Army Radio.

During Mr Trump’s tenure at the White House, the US president announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital, which Mr Netanyahu welcomed as a “historic landmark”, but sparked international condemnation, deadly protests, and was described by Palestinian officials as a “kiss of death” for the peace process.

Mr Trump also threw his support behind Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, a move that reversed decades of US policy. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 – a move deemed illegal under international law.

Mr Netanyahu even renamed a hamlet in the heights “Ramat Trump”, Hebrew for “Trump Heights”, in a gesture of appreciation for the Trump administration’s policies towards the region.

The pair also found common ground on Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In 2018, Mr Trump praised Mr Netanyahu for presenting documents that allegedly revealed Iran had lied about pursuing nuclear weapons. Later that year, Mr Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal put in place during Barack Obama’s administration and agreed international sanctions on Iran could be lifted if the country limited its nuclear activities. Mr Netanyahu welcomed the US withdrawal and the return of sanctions on Iran.

In January this year, Mr Trump, alongside Mr Netanyahu, unveiled his “deal of the century” for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The deal, which wasn’t negotiated with Palestinian leaders, and was announced without a single Palestinian present, was interpreted as a wishlist of the nation’s long-held demands, while promising Palestinians a potential “state”.

At the same time, it recognised Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Mr Netanyahu said he would move to swiftly annexe.

The Palestinians rejected the deal, rebranding it “the slap of the century”.

Michael Oren, Mr Netanyahu's ambassador to Washington when Mr Obama was president, said he expected Israel to have warm ties with Mr Biden.

“They will have disagreements over the peace process. They will have disagreements certainly over the Iran nuclear deal, but I think their friendship is solid.”

Israel’s alternate prime minister, Benny Gantz, also welcomed Mr Biden and Ms Harris’s election victory.

He tweeted: “As the election results become final, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to @JoeBiden, a long-time supporter and friend of Israel, and to his running mate, @KamalaHarris, who has made history as the first woman elected VP.”

And he also paid tribute to Mr Trump, who he described as “a valuable partner of the State of Israel, committed to its security and invested in its future”.

He added: “The Middle East has taken major steps forward thanks to the president’s bold leadership over these four years, and for that we are immensely grateful.”

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