A senior Israeli minister said Tuesday that he was “praying” for US President Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections, saying Iran and terror groups in the region would be pleased if Joe Biden was elected.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 quoted “senior sources in Jerusalem” estimating that Biden will win the White House race and succeed Trump as US president after four years of an extremely close relationship between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The TV report noted dryly, however, that “officials in Jerusalem” also said they estimated Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential elections as that vote headed into its final hours four years ago.
“I am praying for Trump’s victory in the election,” Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, told Radio Kol Chai.
“He has proven his true friendship with the Jewish nation and the State of Israel during the last four years,” Deri said, as Americans were still voting.
He said that Biden “is also a friend of Israel,” but added that “if, God forbid, Trump isn’t elected, I know who will be happy: The Iranians, Hezbollah, Hamas and others.”
Since taking office, Trump has been applauded by Israelis for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem; cutting aid to the Palestinians; pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal; recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; and brokering normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE, and Sudan.
Netanyahu on Sunday praised Trump’s Mideast policies, even as he avoided openly taking sides ahead of the US presidential election.
The prime minister told reporters that US bipartisan support has been “one of the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance.” He then went on to say “that alliance has never been stronger” and praised a slew of steps taken by Trump in favor of Israel.
Despite his stated commitment to bipartisan ties with the US, Israel’s closest and most important ally, Netanyahu has frequently been seen as siding with the Republicans.
Opposition Leader MK Yair Lapid on Monday accused Netanyahu of jettisoning Israel’s bipartisan status in the US and instead throwing his lot in with the Republican Party due to personal motives.
“Until a few years ago, Israel was above politics in the United States,” Lapid said, according to a statement from his party. “We were a bipartisan issue. All the governments of Israel preserved good relations with the Democrats and the Republicans.”
“Netanyahu decided, mostly for internal reasons, to break with that principle,” he said. “Netanyahu created an almost complete identification between the current Israeli government and the Republican Party, between himself and President Trump. He wanted to use President Trump’s justified popularity in Israel to gain some points at home.”
Netanyahu had a cool relationship with former US president Barack Obama, appeared to favor Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012, and then delivered a major speech to Congress in 2015 to argue against Obama’s emerging nuclear deal with Iran. The deal was forged when Biden was vice president.
After taking office, Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, winning praise from Netanyahu.
Then in August 2019, Israel banned freshman Democrat lawmakers Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from touring the West Bank. In announcing the decision, Netanyahu cited a 2017 law denying entry to supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). Though Netanyahu stressed the ban was not related to the congresswomen’s party affiliation but was rather a matter of principle, the move was widely condemned by Jewish groups in the US and Democratic lawmakers.
While Trump is popular with the Israeli public, Netanyahu’s close relationship with the US president appears to be deepening a divide with American Jews. Opinion polls have indicated that American Jews will vote overwhelmingly in favor of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
In contrast, a poll published Sunday by Channel 12 television found that 54% of Israelis favor Trump, compared to 21% who favor Biden. The other 25% said they did not know whom they prefer.
Polls ahead of the 2016 elections indicated Israelis preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump, with Trump preferred among American Israelis.