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Ayelet Shaked: A Zionist speech; Ofir Akunis: He could sign up as a Likud member

Most politicians, but especially the right, delighted by Trump’s Israel Museum speech

Likud and Jewish Home MKs hail address for not mentioning Palestinian state, not criticizing Israel; left-wing focuses on pro-peace message

US President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
US President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

US President Donald Trump’s speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday was widely praised by Israeli politicians, with both right-wing and left-wing lawmakers finding in his address a message they could support.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party called the speech “nearly unprecedented,” noting its friendly tone and vows to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

Bennett did not mention, however, the fact that Trump did not answer his call to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or even part of Israel, which he asked the US president to do while shaking his hand at Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday.

US president Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
US President Donald Trump (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clasp hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump’s departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) highlighted Trump’s call for an end to Palestinian incitement against Israel.

“President Trump [gave] a historic speech on our connection to the land,” he tweeted. “His unequivocal demand from the Palestinian Authority to stop hate education and funding terror is a clear backing of our position. Proud.”

“In the wake of Trump’s speech, there is a unique opportunity to build a new coalition against terror, that will include Israel, the Sunni states and the West,” he added.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) chose to praise Trump’s speech by focusing not on what the president said, but rather on what he didn’t.

“A rare US presidential speech, without the words Palestinian state, without criticism of the settlements,” she tweeted. “An excellent speech that all Israel should be delighted with. There is a friend in the White House.”

Other Likud and Jewish Home MKs noted that Trump did not mention Palestinian statehood. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) said it was “a Zionist speech.” Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said Trump could sign up as “a member of the Likud” on the basis of his address.

Likud MK Avi Dichter, head of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, called the speech “a sharp statement” that is “important given attempts by Palestinians and other countries to create a false history about Jerusalem and Israel,” in apparent reference to recent UNESCO resolutions that ignored Jewish connections to the Temple Mount.

Settler leader Yossi Dagan, the head of the Shomron Regional Council in the northern West Bank who attended Trump’s inauguration in Washington in January, said the address was more pro-Israel than even most Knesset members would give.

Samaria regional council chairman Yossi Dagan attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Samaria regional council chairman Yossi Dagan attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“After this speech and this visit, there is no excuse not to restart building in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” he said. “It’s clear that even if the US opposes building, they won’t fight against it.”

Interior Minister Minister Aryeh Deri commented that Trump’s “impressive speech” showed “unrestrained support for Israel’s security, absolute support for the prosperity of our country. The allegiance between Israel and the US is stronger than ever.”

While praising Trump’s speech, MK Tzipi Livni of the opposition Zionist Union party saw it as an opportunity for a renewed drive for a peace agreement.

“[Trump] clarified today that from his point of view both Abbas and Netanyahu are partners for peace. Now they are the ones that need to prove it. Good luck to them,” she said.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni (L) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the opening session of the World Economic Forum held in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh in Jordan on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni (L) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the opening session of the World Economic Forum held in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh in Jordan on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

“It is surprising that it had to come from Trump, but it was about time that somebody said it: It is not a zero sum game, not Israel or the Arabs. Both of them. The peace will be bigger than the sum of its parts,” wrote Zionist Union MK Merav Mechaeli, also focusing on Trump’s call for peace between Israel and Palestinians.

In one of the few critical reactions to Trump’s speech, left-wing Meretz party leader MK Zehava Galon lamented the lack of specifics laid out by the US president regarding what a future peace agreement would entail.

“I understand that Netanyahu and Abbas are interested in peace. What I didn’t exactly understand is what that peace will look like if the two-state solution was not even mentioned,” she said.

In his speech, Trump praised the “unshakable bond between the US and Israel,” adding that “my administration will always stand with Israel.”

US President Donald Trump (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave after delivering a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave after delivering a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

He also said both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have expressed to him their desire for peace and expressed hope that a deal between the sides can be sealed.

“Making peace will not be easy. But with determination to compromise and belief peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can reach a deal,” he said.

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