WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Sunday that Israel has got to “get their act together” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a new governing coalition and a second election was set for later this year.
“Israel is all messed up with their election. I mean, that came out of the blue three days ago. So that’s all messed up. They ought to get their act together,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the UK.
“Bibi got elected. Now, all of a sudden, they’re going to have to go through the process again until September? That’s ridiculous. So we’re not happy about that,” he said.
Trump also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may be right in assessing that the administration’s forthcoming Mideast peace plan may not go anywhere. A Washington Post report quoted Pompeo as telling a group of Jewish leaders in New York that the long-delayed plan may not “gain traction.”
Trump told reporters, “I think we have a good chance, but we’ll see what happens.”
This is the second time Trump has commented on Netanyahu’s failure to form a government, but this time was a lot less charitable to the Israeli leader, who has been one of his greatest supporters in the international community.
On Thursday Trump was more sympathetic and praised the premier as a “great guy.”
“Well, it’s too bad what happened in Israel. It looked like a total win for Netanyahu, who’s a great guy, he’s a great guy,” said the president. “And now they’re back… in the election stage. That is too bad. Because they don’t need this. I mean they’ve got enough turmoil over there, it’s a tough place.”
Trump was widely seen as overtly pushing to get Netanyahu elected, with a series of steps aimed at boosting Netanyahu’s popularity, including recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in a festive ceremony at the White House just days before the election.
Earlier this week, while Netanyahu still had time to cobble together a coalition by a Wednesday night deadline, Trump chimed in on Twitter, expressing hope that despite stalled coalition negotiations, the premier would be able to form a government in order to further strengthen ties between the countries.
“Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi [Netanyahu] and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!” Trump tweeted in the midst of the drama in Israel.
Speaking to Trump’s Middle East advisers, who were in Israel on Thursday, Netanyahu said that Israel-US ties would not be affected by Wednesday night’s political “little event.”
“Even though we had a little event last night – that’s not going to stop us. We’re going to continue working together. We had a great, productive meeting which reaffirms that the alliance… has never been stronger,” Netanyahu said, according to a recording released by the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
The president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, accompanied by the president’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, arrived in Jerusalem last week after earlier stops in Morocco and Jordan. They were on a trip to lay the groundwork for the economic section of the administration’s peace plan.
The Trump administration purposefully set its plan launch for after coalition negotiations, when Israel was expected to have a functioning government, and it isn’t clear if the date will change now that the country is again going to the polls.
“I came with greetings from President Trump for you and all the people of Israel,” Kushner told Netanyahu. “This was my first visit to Israel since the president recognized the Golan Heights, which was a very important announcement. The security of Israel is something that’s critical to the relationship between America and Israel and also very important to the president in his heart, and we appreciate all your efforts to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”