Trump has ‘every intention’ of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Trump has ‘every intention’ of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders hail election of Donald Trump, whose campaign promises would overturn decades of US foreign policy

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Wednesday 9 November 2016 18.23 GMT

Israeli government ministers and political figures are pushing the US president-elect, Donald Trump, to quickly fulfill his campaign promise to overturn decades of US foreign policy and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Their calls came as one of Trump’s advisers on Israel and the Middle East, David Friedman, told the Jerusalem Post that Trump would follow through on his promise.

‘It was a campaign promise and there is every intention to keep it,” Friedman said. ‘We are going to see a very different relationship between America and Israel in a positive way.”

Other political figures – including Israel’s controversial far-right education minister, Naftali Bennett – went further, suggesting that Trump’s election should signal the end of the two-state solution and aspirations for a Palestinian state.

The US election campaign has been closely watched in Israel, not least Trump’s promise to scrap the Iran nuclear deal drawn up by Barack Obama and fiercely opposed by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Indeed, during his campaign Trump slammed the Iran deal, describing it as “the stupidest deal of all time” vowing to tear it up.

During the campaign Trump also promised to be Israel’s “closest friend”, and has indicated that he would take a different approach to Israel’s settlement-building in the occupied territories – long condemned by successive US governments.

But although many on the right welcomed Trump’s election, other commentators in Israel have also been deeply uncomfortable over the perception that Trump – or at least members of his campaign team – were responsible for antisemitic “dog whistles” in his messaging.

Trump’s election was quickly welcomed by Netanyahu, but the Israeli prime minister steered clear of controversial issues, only congratulating Trump and calling him a “true friend” of Israel while pledging to work with him on security and peace in the region. Netanyahu later released a video on YouTube welcoming Trump’s appointment.

“President-elect Trump is a true friend of the state of Israel,” said Netanyahu in a statement. “We will work together to advance the security, stability and peace in our region. The strong connection between the United States and Israel is based on shared values, shared interests and a shared destiny.

“I’m certain that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between Israel and the United States, and bring it to new heights,” he added.

After a phone conversation between Netanyahu and Trump later, it emerged that Trump had invited the Israeli prime minister to the US. “President-elect Trump invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to a meeting in the United States at the first opportunity,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

Netanyahu’s remarks came as it was suggested that Netanyahu and his team had privately expected Hillary Clinton to be elected.

In a more coded message of congratulations, Israel’s opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, referred to the rise of a new global populist politics, saying: “The US elections are a continuation of a global trend of rejecting the old ruling elites and a wish for a clear and emphatic change.

“Trump’s election is the continuation of a social, economic and political tsunami that we’ve seen in many countries, which will also bring about change in Israel.”

But other members of Netanyahu’s government – considered the most rightwing in Israeli history – showed less restraint.

The education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads the hardline Jewish Home party and is seen as seeking to be prime minister one day, said the idea of a Palestinian state was now over.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the centre of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett said. “This is the position of the president-elect … The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

The justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, also of Jewish Home; deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, from Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party; and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat also called for the embassy to be transferred.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians see Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while the Israelis call the entire city their eternal indivisible capital.

A Trump administration will be far more favourable to the Jewish state, another of the president-elect’s advisers on Israel has said.

Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, said a Trump administration is likely to be “much more understanding if Israel has to use force in order to tamp down Palestinian violence”.

He also said he felt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be “much less of a priority, and when it’s not a priority, this means that Israel in some ways gets off the hook”.

The Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, congratulated Trump and said he hoped peace could be achieved during his term based on the two-state solution.

“We are ready to deal with the elected president on the basis of a two-state solution and to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP, referring to the year when Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.