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Netanyahu calls ‘rampage’ in DC ‘disgraceful,’ lauds Trump as Mideast peacemaker

After lengthy delay, PM denounces assault on Capitol without naming president or specifying circumstances, says US democracy will prevail; then thanks Trump for peace breakthroughs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) addressing the media alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem, January 7, 2021. (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) addressing the media alongside US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem, January 7, 2021. (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday condemned the attack on the Capitol Building in Washington the previous day as “disgraceful,” saying it was the “opposite” of American and Israeli values, but went on to praise US President Donald Trump as a regional peacemaker.

The Israeli premier, a key Trump ally, made his remarks alongside US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was visiting Jerusalem after a trip to Khartoum in which the Sudanese government pledged to normalize ties with the Jewish state.

In his denunciation of the attack on the Capitol, which came several hours after most other world leaders decried the rampage, Netanyahu did not mention Trump by name or the circumstances in which the attack took place. The president has been accused by both Democrats and Republicans of inciting the attack, in which four people died, one by police gunfire and three others under unclear circumstances.

Netanyahu did, however, lavish praise on the US president shortly thereafter for his role in normalizing ties between Israel and several Arab countries.

“I want to thank President Trump and all of you in the administration for all you have done and are doing for peace. You’ve made a real difference, achieving one breakthrough after another, bringing the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan into the circle of peace. I have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will follow,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s comments praising Trump were left out of his office’s initial press release on his meeting with Mnuchin, which included only his condemnation of the attack on Washington.

The prime minister said he believed the US would overcome the assault on the Capitol, which occurred as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s victory in November’s election. Trump has repeatedly and without factual basis denied the results of the election, falsely claiming it was stolen from him.

“For generations, American democracy has inspired millions around the world and in Israel. American democracy has always inspired me,” Netanyahu said.

“Lawlessness and violence are the opposite of the values we know Americans and Israelis cherish. I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail — it always has,” the prime minister added.

Mnuchin also condemned the attack on the Capitol Building.

“The violence that occurred last night at the Capitol in Washington, DC, was completely unacceptable. Now is the time for our nation to come together as one and to respect the democratic process in the US,” the treasury secretary said.

Mnuchin indicated that he would not be resigning from his position in light of the attack on the Capitol, as Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger did Wednesday.

“I look forward to getting back to Washington, DC, with our continued work on the transition,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday morning, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that he was “shocked” by the attack a day earlier on the US Capitol Building by supporters of Trump.

“I was shocked to see the attack on the American Congress, a global bulwark of democracy, and this must be roundly condemned from sunup to sundown. United States, our great and strong friend, is a beacon for democracy and for values of freedom, justice and independence,” Ashkenazi said in a statement.

“I am confident that the American people and their representatives will know how to rebuff this attack and to continue to defend the important values on which the United States was founded,” he added.

While the siege by rioters was still underway, Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid, the opposition leader, put out a statement condemning the violence and was joined hours later by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party. The response by ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, has been notably muted.

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

On Wednesday night, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz of the Likud tweeted a link to an article on the attack, saying it was “shocking, disturbing and frightening.”

On Thursday morning, asked about the events during an interview with Army Radio, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, a senior Likud figure, said that Israel should see the attack on the US Capitol as a warning of what could happen in the Jewish state as well.

“We should all relax before — heaven forbid — things get out of control for us too,” he said.

Gideon Sa’ar seen during a visit to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem on December 16, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar, a Netanyahu rival who defected from Likud last month to form a rival right-wing party, said that images from the US showed the dangers of polarization and the importance of not taking democracy for granted.

“I was sad to see the pictures from Washington, DC, last night. Order has been restored and I am sure there will be an orderly transition of power in the United States, our greatest friend in the world,” Sa’ar wrote on Twitter.

“The events serve as an important reminder of the dangers of polarization and extremism in society. We must never take democracy and its institutions for granted,” said Sa’ar.

Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, January 5, 2021 (Elad Guttman)

Lapid said Wednesday night that he was “deeply saddened and shocked” by the violence.

“My thoughts are with all my friends in Washington tonight. We hope to see order restored and the transition of power completed,” Lapid wrote on Twitter in the first reaction of an Israeli politician to the US scenes.

“America needs to go back to being a role model for democracies across the world,” Lapid said.

Gantz said the images from Washington “hurt the heart of anyone who believes in democracy.”

“I never believed I would see such images from the world’s most powerful democracy,” Gantz said. “This is proof that before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: maintaining the rule of law, respect for the democratic process and respectful dialogue. I hope this horrific event will come to an end soon, without any casualties.”

From left, Yossi Dagan, Mark Zell and Abe Katzman celebrating the opening of the Republicans Overseas Israel office in the West Bank town of Karnei Shomron, Sept. 5, 2016. (Andrew Tobin)

The head of the US Republican Party in Israel also condemned the violence. “I’m ashamed tonight. I don’t like seeing these pictures, this has nothing to do with the Republican Party and our values,” Mark Zell told Army Radio.

Zell said that he still supports Trump and agrees with the US president’s unfounded claim that the election was stolen. “What is happening today doesn’t reflect his actions,” Zell said of Trump.

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