US officials are reportedly very unhappy with Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, saying he is primarily responsible for US President Donald Trump’s decision to postpone moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Bennett’s vocal opposition to Trump’s efforts to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks sank all chances of the US president fulfilling his campaign promise, Channel 2 reported on Thursday.
Israeli officials who spoke with the US team heard them express their anger and frustration at the statements of various ministers, especially Bennett, against the initiatives Trump is trying to bring to fruition.
One of Trump’s advisers told the Israeli team, “If there is one person who buried the chances of moving the embassy it is Naftali Bennett,” the report said.
Bennett last week said that “any agreement based on dividing Jerusalem is doomed to fail.” He also told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand that the White House move the embassy.
“That’s not what we had expected from Israel in reference to an ally who always stands by [Israel’s] side, particularly this friendly administration,” sources close to the president were quoted saying. “Apparently some of the ministers don’t understand the sensitivity of the situation with regard to the embassy.”
Bennett responded to the allegations, saying that his task is to serve Israel, not the Trump administration.
“Bennett welcomes Trump on his first visit to Israel,” a spokesperson for the minister said. “However, at the same time he protects Israel’s security and guards its policies.”
The spokesperson added that “Bennett was not elected to protect the White House’s interests, but the best interests of Israelis. There are those who agree to concessions on Jerusalem and parts of our homeland. Bennett stands opposed to this for the sake of a united Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu himself has steered clear of the spat between Bennett and the White House.
However, he evidently wants to show Trump that even though he may not see eye to eye with Bennett, he does support the West Bank settlers. He has invited Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria regional council in the West Bank, to be part of the welcoming delegation to greet the president when he arrives on Monday.