Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with outgoing US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Thursday, ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s entry into office on Friday.
In a terse statement issued by his office, Netanyahu said he “thanked [Shapiro] for years of joint work and for his contribution to the strategic and important alliance between the US and Israel.”
In a response to a tweet posted by Netanyahu’s “PM of Israel” account Thursday showing a picture of the two meeting, Shapiro tweeted: “Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. It has been an honor to work to advance the US-Israel partnership.
The two had last met late last month when Netanyahu summoned Shapiro — and a host of other envoys to Israel — for a personal dressing-down in the wake of a UN Security Council Resolution slamming Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the US allowed to pass by choosing to withhold its veto. The move infuriated Israel, which accused Washington of orchestrating and advancing the resolution, a charge the White House denied.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who days after the UN vote gave a speech outlining his vision for a two-state solution, have each defended the administration’s record on Israel and maintained that its actions were done out of friendship. The Obama administration has argued that it has done more for the Jewish state than previous governments.
In an interview last week with CNN, Kerry said the US was trying to “speak as a good, solid best friend of Israel and we have done more for this government, more for Israel than any other administration.” He pointed to the unprecedented $38 billion military aid deal reached with Israel last year and Washington’s involvement in developing and funding Israel’s missile programs.
On Tuesday, Shapiro was hosted separately by President Reuven Rivlin and the Knesset’s Lobby for US-Israel Relations for warm farewell events.
Meeting at the President’s Residence, Rivlin gave Shapiro a parting letter for Obama, thanking him for his support for Israel’s defense, even as he acknowledged occasional “differences of opinion” between the two allies.
In the letter, Rivlin thanked Obama “for your continuing concern over the last eight years, for Israel’s safety and our ability to carry the burden of security. You ensured that we could always feel confident that our needs in this area were a priority for your administration.”
He wrote: “While from time to time we may have had differences of opinion, you stood strong in the defense of the shared values of our two peoples and countries, and for this we are deeply appreciative.”
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) January 17, 2017
According to a statement from Rivlin’s office, Shapiro in turn conveyed to the Israeli president “deep gratitude to you for your leadership, for your friendship, for the good advice and support you have given me personally, and you have given to our efforts led by President Obama and our whole administration, to work with the Israeli government and make this relationship as strong as it can possibly be.”
During the Knesset event that afternoon, Speaker Yuli Edelstein hailed Shapiro as an “anchor” in a frequently rocky relationship between Washington and Jerusalem.
“In the relationship between countries and in politics it’s never black and white and there were better periods, and less good ones,” said Edelstein at the event. “We could paint an excellent picture of assistance and planes and military assistance agreements, or we could discuss the less successful meetings. But many here, it doesn’t matter from which side [of the political spectrum], felt you were an anchor and an island of stability.”
Shapiro told the Israeli lawmakers that when the history books are written, it will be clear that “the ties between Washington and Israel grew stronger in the past years,” according to Israel Radio.
Disagreements between countries as close as Israel and the United States are “natural,” he was quoted as saying.
President-elect Donald Trump has appointed a new US envoy to Israel, David Friedman, who is expected to take up his post in February or March. Shapiro, who is Jewish and fluent in Hebrew, was appointed to his post in July 2011.
Shapiro will remain in Israel after he ends his term, allowing his three daughters to complete the school year before returning to the US.