Senior Israeli officials believe US President Donald Trump is “very disappointed” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and frustrated that the ongoing political stalemate has significantly delayed the unveiling of Washington’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, according to a report Sunday.
Israel has been stuck in a political deadlock for some seven months, after two successive rounds of elections failed to produce a clear winner. US officials, who were reportedly readying to roll out the plan earlier this year, have said they are waiting until an Israeli government is formed to release the peace proposal.
The Americans “are frustrated and in despair due to Israeli politics and the political crisis, which has been preventing them for many months from presenting the diplomatic part of the ‘deal of the century,'” an Israeli official who has been in contact with senior members of the Trump administration told the Ynet news website.
The official added that the current situation “is creating frustration, bewilderment and anger” in Washington.
On Tuesday, Trump jokingly ranted about Israel’s political chaos in a speech to an Orthodox Jewish group.
“What kind of a system is it over there, right, with Bibi and…? They are all fighting and fighting,” Trump said in New York City. ”
“We have different kinds of fights. At least we know who the boss is. They keep having elections and nobody is elected,” he quipped, eliciting laughter.
Behind the laughter, Trump was described as “very disappointed with Netanyahu and is speaking negatively about him,” the official said.
Though the two were once close allies who touted their friendship to their respective bases, ties between Netanyahu and Trump have been seen as cooling in recent months as the Israeli premier has struggled to cling to power.
According to unnamed officials cited in the report, Trump decided to distance himself from Netanyahu after the latter failed to form a government in the aftermath of the April elections, and refrained from helping him on the campaign trail of the September election.
Shortly before the April vote Trump invited Netanyahu to the White House, where he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and also declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror organization, in moves widely believed to be designed to boost the incumbent leader.
In the second election, Trump didn’t take similar steps benefiting Netanyahu besides a tweet saying the two had discussed the option of a mutual defense pact.
A Trump associate was quoted by Ynet as saying Trump had made the decision to distance himself from Netanyahu after his first failure to cobble together a coalition, “because the president doesn’t like losers.”
The disappointment appears to be mutual.
“Iran’s brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response,” he said at an IDF officer’s graduation ceremony.
Privately, according to a report from Channel 13 news on October 31, he has been more vocal.
Several weeks earlier, Netanyahu told cabinet members in a closed-door meeting that Trump would not act against Iran until US general elections in November 2020 at the earliest, according to the report.
The report, which did not cite a source for the information, said Netanyahu told the ministers that in the interim Israel would have to deal with Iran on its own.
Israeli military officials have expressed fears in recent weeks that Iran may begin to respond to Israeli attacks on its positions in Syria, emboldened by a perceived lack of resolve from the US, which has signaled its disengagement from the region.
However, Trump is still considered a close ally of Netanyahu, and he recently wrote the premier a warm letter for his 70th birthday, thanking him for his “strong leadership and loyal friendship” and describing the Israeli leader as “one of my closest allies.”
“There has never been a more productive time in the Israeli-American partnership, and I know there are many more victories to come,” Trump wrote in the letter, dated October 21, the date of the Israeli leader’s birthday.
Netanyahu in response thanked Trump for his “warm words,” posting on Twitter Tuesday evening that US-Israel ties “have never been stronger.”
Netanyahu’s political future is murky after he failed for the second time to form a majority government in parliament, marking a major setback for the embattled Israeli leader that plunges the country further into political uncertainty.
His rival, centrist leader Benny Gantz, is currently trying to form a coalition. If he also fails to do so by Wednesday, and no coalition is formed within the next 21 days, a third election will be called, further extending by several months the period in which there will be no fully functioning Israeli government and Trump will not be able to reveal its peace plan.