US President-elect Donald Trump feels “very warmly” about Israel and the Jewish people, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes set to be broadcast Sunday.
In an excerpt from the interview released early, the Israeli leader said: “I know Donald Trump. I know him very well…his support for Israel is clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There’s no question about that.”
Asked if he expected a better relationship with Washington after the tumultuous years of Barack Obama’s administration, Netanyahu admitted that he had had differences of opinion with Obama, particularly on the US-led nuclear accord with Iran. But he insisted that the matter was never personal.
“Yeah, we had differences of opinion, I had differences of opinion with President Obama,” he said. “Suppose we had the greatest of personal chemistry, okay? So what, you think I wouldn’t stand up against the Iran deal if I thought, as I did, that it endangers the existence of Israel? Of course I would.”
A poll last week found that the vast majority of Israelis believe Trump will be a “pro-Israel president.”
According to the poll conducted by the Dialog polling firm, 83 percent of Israelis view Trump, a Republican who has made statements putting him in line with many of the Israeli government’s right-wing policies, as pro-Israel.
Trump has said he will seek to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, while statements by him and advisers have painted him as supporting or being willing to tolerate settlement building and recognize a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, two issues on which the Netanyahu government often clashed with Obama over the last six years.
Most Israelis polled also said they were not overly concerned with fears of a rise in anti-Semitism in the US in the wake of Trump’s victory, which has emboldened some racist and anti-Semitic groups, part of the so-called “alt-right.”
In regards to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump said during the campaign he would tear up, calling it one of the worst agreements in history, 42% of Israelis believe there is no chance he will scrap the nuclear accord, with only 13% saying there is a high chance he will tear up the deal.
Netanyahu himself said last week that Israel’s settlement policy is not governed by the United States and the incoming Trump administration will not change that.
The premier told the annual Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum for Middle East Policy on Sunday that he would raise the “bad” Iran nuclear deal with Trump, and urged continued US intervention in the Middle East. He also appeared to brush off fears of an uptick in anti-Semitism in the US, noting that the fringe trend of anti-Jewish hatred was a feature of all democracies.
Right-wing politicians have contended that settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has nearly ground to a halt under the Obama administration, which forcefully condemns any building over the Green Line.
Asked whether Trump’s incoming administration will allow Israel to do whatever it wants regarding settlement building in the West Bank, Netanyahu said “I think we have been doing what we want.”