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Israel's UN ambassador: 'A true friend of Israel' in the White House

Israel hails ‘new era’ of relations with President Trump

Officials vow to make alliance between two nations ‘greater than ever,’ even as security services prepare for possible unrest due to Trump policy changes

US President Donald Trump speaks to the nation during his swearing-in ceremony  on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the nation during his swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards)

Israel welcomed the inauguration of President Donald Trump after eight, often tense, years with the Obama administration, vowing to make the alliance between Israel and the US “greater than ever” and heralding the start of “a new era.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preempted the inauguration to offer his congratulations to “President Trump,” apparently because the inauguration took place after the Sabbath had started in Israel.

He tweeted “Congrats to my friend President Trump. Look fwd to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel&USA stronger than ever.”

That was echoed almost immediately after the inauguration by Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, who tweeted: “Congratulations President Trump! Israel looks forward to working with you to make the US-Israel alliance greater than ever.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said this would herald a sea-change, particularly at the United Nations, where Israel recently suffered one of its worst reverses in recent years, when President Obama refused to use the US veto in a resolution that condemned Israeli settlements.

“A true friend of Israel will enter the White House today,” said Danon in a statement. “Thank you President Trump for your unequivocal support, we look forward to welcoming you to our capital of Jerusalem.”

“After the shameful resolution that was adopted by the Security Council, Israel looks forward to strengthening our most important alliance and leading together towards a new era at the UN,” he said.

An Israeli child cycles past a giant banner, bearing a message of congratulations (Mazeltov) for incoming US President Donald Trump, covering a building under construction in central Jerusalem on January 20, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
An Israeli child cycles past a giant banner, bearing a message of congratulations (Mazeltov) for incoming US President Donald Trump, covering a building under construction in central Jerusalem on January 20, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)

But while Israel’s leaders enthused, analysts suggested a more cautious approach, saying that despite all his pro-Israel pronouncements, Trump was still an unknown quantity for Israel.

“We have to ask if such an isolationist president will be good for Israel; will he have the patience for us,” said Channel 2’s lead anchor Yonit Levi after Trump again promised in his inaugural address to always put America’s interests first.

Channel 2 foreign editor Arad Nir highlighted Trump’s use of the term “America First” in his address, with its echoes of World War II era anti-Semitic connotations and his support from far-right groups.

A woman protests against the new US President Donald Trump, in Mexico City during his inauguration day on January 20, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT)
A woman protests against the new US President Donald Trump, in Mexico City during his inauguration day on January 20, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

And diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal highlighted several areas that could be of concern for Israel.

“This is good for Netanyahu, because of the changing of the guard, Obama is out and Trump is in, but there are concerns,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer at the signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (Israeli Embassy, Washington)
Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer at the signing of the US-Israel military aid deal in the State Department on September 14, 2016 (Israeli Embassy, Washington)

“Will his close ties with Putin end up leading to a permanent Iranian role in Syria?” Segal asked. Russia has very close ties with both Iran and Syria and Israel is adamant that arch-enemy Iran not establish a significant presence in its war-torn northern neighbor.

Segal also highlighted the different attitude the Trump administration will take regarding Israeli settlers. Trump’s new ambassador is a strong supporter of the settlements and a delegation of leaders attended the inauguration.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, holds up a Bible as he speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (Courtesy: UN)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, holds up a Bible as he speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (Courtesy: UN)

“I definitely agree that we are now getting the VIP treatment, which is something that we have been working on for many years,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israel’s more than 120 West Bank settlements. “You could basically argue that it has taken 50 years, since 1967, to be recognized on such a level for such an event,” he told AP.

The third key area is Jerusalem. Trump promised to move his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Members of the Israeli government have been vocally supportive of the plan to move the embassy, which Trump vowed to do while on the campaign trail and after his victory in November.

The politically charged move has, however, caused outrage among Palestinians who see part of Jerusalem as their future capital, and it was on Thursday indirectly condemned by foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

According to a report Friday in Haaretz newspaper, officials from the IDF, police and Shin Bet earlier this week presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior members of the cabinet — among them Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan — with scenarios that could result from relocating the embassy.

The prime minister instructed the security officials to prepare for such a possibility from the moment that the new president is sworn in.

Haaretz quoted two senior Israeli officials familiar with topics raised at the meeting as saying that Netanyahu and others present made it clear that Israel has no solid information on if and when Trump will issue a notice to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem.

A general view taken on January 13, 2017 shows the Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
A general view taken on January 13, 2017 shows the Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

One of the officials said Netanyahu has spoken with Trump by phone several times since the election, but at the time of the meeting, had not received a clear answer from the new president about the timing of an embassy relocation

According to Haaretz, the two officials said that the purpose of the meeting was to prepare for possible repercussions from the relocation of the embassy, particularly in light of a media campaign being waged against it by the Palestinian Authority. One of the officials said there has even been explicit incitement to violence by Palestinian officials in recent weeks regarding the matter.

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