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Israeli opposition head, Yamina’s Bennett congratulate Biden; Netanyahu, not yet

Lapid and Justice Minister Nissenkorn expect relations to ‘deepen and strengthen’ further under newly elected US president; Bennett sure Biden committed to Israel’s security

Yesh Atid lead Yair Lapid (L) and former vice president Joe Biden in an undated photo (Courtesy)
Yesh Atid lead Yair Lapid (L) and former vice president Joe Biden in an undated photo (Courtesy)

Israeli politicians began issuing their congratulations to US president-elect Joe Biden Saturday evening, shortly after it became clear he would become the next American president.

Israel’s opposition leader and its justice minister were quick to congratulate Biden.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been particularly closely allied with US President Donald Trump, did not comment on Biden’s election in the first hour after his victory was announced. Neither did Blue and White Defense Minister Benny Gantz, or his party’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

News of Biden’s victory broke soon after the end of Shabbat in Israel.

“Congratulations to the president-elect, my friend Joe Biden and his vice president-elect Kamala Harris,” opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party said in a statement.

“The relationship between Israel [and] the US is based on shared values and interests that I’m sure will be at the heart of your work,” Lapid, who heads Yesh Atid, says in a statement.

He added: “I expect to work with the new administration and with members of both parties in Congress to deepen and strengthen the special relations between Israel and the United States.”

Yesh Ativ lead Yair Lapid (L) and former vice president Joe Biden in an undated photo (Courtesy)

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn congratulated Biden and Harris as well.

“I’m sure that that the close and strong bond between the United States and Israel will get stronger under a Biden administration,” he wrote on Twitter.

Nissenkorn is a member of Gantz’s Blue and White party.

There was no immediate reaction from Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with US Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem, 2010 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

MK Nir Barkat congratulated Biden, becoming the first lawmaker in Netanyahu’s Likud party to do so. Barkat said he believed that under Biden, “the courageous and positive relationship between the two countries will continue.”

He also thanked Trump for “his incredible contribution to the State of Israel” during his tenure.

“You will be forever engraved in history of Israel as a true friend of ours,” Barkat says.

According to Kan news, Likud members were instructed to say in response to Joe Biden’s election win that they hoped the president-elect would continue Trump’s foreign policy.

The formulation was meant to allow Likud to compliment Trump — with whom Netanyahu has forged close ties — while also congratulating Biden on his victory without alienating either side, the broadcaster said.

Yamina party head Naftali Bennett was the first prominent right-wing MK to congratulate Biden. In an interview with Channel 12 news, Bennett said he was convinced Biden is committed to ensuring Israel’s security.

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media in Ariel, in the West Bank, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

He also hailed Trump, noting some of the US president’s moves vis-a-vis the Jewish state during his time in office, such as moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

“You took truly revolutionary steps in the fortification of Israel’s existence,” he later tweeted. “You brought us peace without giving up land. You made it clear the focus of the region is not the Palestinians. We will never forget this and we will always remain thankful.”

MK Nitzan Horowitz, head of the left-wing Meretz party, also congratulated Biden, while striking a markedly different tone on Trump. “After 4 years of nastiness, lies and thuggishness, the time has come for honest and decent leadership,” Horowitz wrote on Twitter.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman congratulated Biden while also thanking Trump and expressing certainty the two nations’ bonds would grow ever stronger.

Meanwhile, Shelly Yachimovich, the former Labor leader and now a host of a current events radio show, focused with glee on the end of Trump’s rule.

“Good riddance. We’re rid of a disturbed, lying idiot, who scorned all that is just and right and embraced all that is bad and depraved,” she tweeted. “A narcissist megalomaniac, misogynistic, harassing racist, who threatened to take all achievements of equality and progress back to the stone age. A heavy shadow has been removed from the world.”

Biden won the White House, US media said Saturday, defeating Donald Trump and ending a presidency that convulsed American politics, shocked the world and left the United States more divided than at any time in decades.

All major news networks and outlets announced the result just before 11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT) as an insurmountable lead in Pennsylvania took Biden, 77, over the top in the state-by-state count that decides the presidency.

“America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country,” Biden said in a statement.

“The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a president for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.”

While Jews in the United States are believed to have voted overwhelmingly for Biden, Donald Trump is a popular figure in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described him as the “greatest friend” Israel has ever had in the White House.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk to a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 27, 2020. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

During his time in office, Trump has taken a number of moves warmly welcomed by Israel — beginning with his recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump also recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, has taken a softer line toward Israeli settlement construction and recently brokered diplomatic pacts between Israel and three Arab countries: Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan.

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