Israeli right-wing politicians rushed to capitalise on Donald Trump’s election as US president on Wednesday, with one key minister even declaring an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.
Some government ministers also pushed for Trump to follow through on his controversial commitment to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.
The move would break with decades of precedent and put Washington at odds with nearly all UN member states, illustrating concerns over the foreign policy consequences of Trump’s victory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu steered clear of controversial topics, only congratulating Trump and calling him a “true friend” of Israel while pledging to work with him on security and peace in the region.
The premier’s office later said the two men held a telephone conversation in which Netanyahu said “the United States has no better ally than Israel”, and Trump invited him to visit Washington.
Members of Netanyahu’s government, considered the most right-wing in Israeli history, showed less restraint in their expectations of dividends from Trump’s victory.
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 in an apparent reference to the occupied West Bank.
“This is the position of the president-elect… The era of a Palestinian state is over.”
– Moving the embassy –
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Jewish Home, called on Trump to follow through on a pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, also called for the embassy to be transferred, as did Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
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.
Trump has vowed to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Netanyahu had caused controversy when he ruled out a Palestinian state ahead of a 2015 general election, but later backtracked and has since expressed support for a two-state solution, the basis of years of negotiations.
His government, which receives more than $3 billion per year in US defence aid, has faced increasing criticism from President Barack Obama’s administration over continued settlement building in the West Bank.
A Trump administration will be far more favourable to the Jewish state, the president-elect’s adviser 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”.
– ‘Ironclad bond’ –
Netanyahu said in his statement: “The ironclad bond between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared values, buttressed by shared interests and driven by a shared destiny.
“I am confident that president-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also 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.
The Palestinians remain deeply divided, with Abbas’s secular Fatah party dominating in the West Bank and the Islamist movement Hamas in power in the Gaza Strip.
Reacting to Trump’s victory, Hamas said it did not expect a change in US “bias” against the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people do not count much on any change in the US presidency because the US policy towards the Palestinian issue is a consistent policy on the basis of bias,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
“Nevertheless, we hope that US president Trump will re-evaluate this policy and rebalance it on the Palestinian issue.”
Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
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