Settler leaders invited to attend Trump inauguration

Yesha Council hails ‘clear indication’ of different attitude of new administration, weeks after Obama failed to veto UN resolution condemning settlements

US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)
US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)

In a sign of the different attitude of US President-elect Donald Trump, the West Bank settlers’ council said Friday it has been invited to send a delegation to the presidential inauguration next week.

It said that Oded Revivi, chairman of the Yesha settlers’ council, will lead the delegation. He will be joined by Benny Kasriel, mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, a large settlement next to Jerusalem.

This comes three weeks after the Obama administration failed to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, a move Israel bitterly condemned. Consecutive US administrations have called the settlements an obstacle to peace, saying they undermine the possibility of a two state solution.

Revivi said the invitation is a “clear indication” that the new administration understands the importance of his group. He says he is looking forward to working “with our new friends in the White House.”

Trump has appointed David Friedman, a Jewish-American lawyer with close ties to the settlement movement, as his ambassador to Israel. Trump also has vowed to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step the Palestinians strongly oppose.

Oded Revivi (Courtesy of Avi Hyman Communications)
Oded Revivi (Courtesy of Avi Hyman Communications)

In their confirmation hearings, Trump’s Cabinet picks have voiced mixed messages. His nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said a two-state solution is “the dream that everyone is in pursuit of,” but he also questioned its feasibility. His nominee for defense secretary, James Mattis, told his hearing Thursday that Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, is Israel’s capital.

The announcement came after it became clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not attend the inauguration, quashing earlier reports that he had been invited to attend.

Netanyahu was not invited to the inauguration in Washington DC, and leaders of foreign countries do not usually attend US presidential inaugurations, the Israel Hayom daily reported on Thursday, citing the Prime Minister’s Office.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu canceled his trip scheduled for January 18 to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, leading to further speculation that he might be planning to attend the inauguration.

The Prime Minister’s Office also said in a statement that the cancellation of Netanyahu’s participation in Davos, where he was scheduled to speak and had meetings planned, had nothing to do with a police investigation into possible bribery and fraud charges.

The cancellation fueled rumors that Trump staffers, led by son-in-law Jared Kushner, were “aggressively courting” the prime minister in an effort to persuade him to attend the January 20 ceremony.

Netanyahu’s tense relationship with outgoing US President Barack Obama was exacerbated in recent weeks, after the White House publicly clashed with Israel over its West Bank policy and later declined to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements.

Trump has assured Israel that things will be different after he takes office, and a day after his election victory, and has invited Netanyahu to meet with him in the United States “at the first opportunity.”

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