US President Donald Trump on Thursday lamented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inability to form a coalition, and praised the premier as a “great guy.”
While speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before boarding Marine One to an Air Force Academy commencement in Colorado Springs, Trump was asked to comment on the political situation in Israel, which will see the Jewish state head to elections for the second time in less than six months.
“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 the Wednesday night deadline, Trump chimed in on Twitter, expressing hope that despite stalled coalition negotiations, the Israeli 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 back 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.
Kushner, accompanied by Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, arrived in Jerusalem last night after earlier stops in Morocco and Jordan. They are on a trip to lay the groundwork for the economic section of the administration’s peace plan.