Trump says Netanyahu election win means a ‘better chance for peace’

‘I think we’ll see some pretty good actions in terms of peace,’ US president says, as congratulations pour in for PM from right-wing world leaders

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his win in the Israeli election, and said it would improve the chances of success for his administration’s much-anticipated peace plan.

“I think we have a better chance now that Bibi has won,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn before heading to Texas, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “The fact that Bibi has won, I think we’ll see some pretty good actions in terms of peace.”

“Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance,” the US president added.

The White House has said it would release its peace proposal following the elections in Israel, though a report on Israeli television earlier this week said the exact timing would be dependent on the outcome of the vote.

With over 97 percent of ballots counted, and his Likud party and fellow right-wing and religious parties poised to secure a clear majority of Knesset seats, Netanyahu emerged from Tuesday’s elections in the best position to muster a coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu. It looks like that race has been won by him. It may be a little early but I’m hearing he’s won it and won it in good fashion,” Trump said.

Calling Netanyahu a “great ally” and a “friend,” Trump said the Israeli elections were “a well fought out race.”

The comments from Trump came as a steady stream of congratulations from largely right-wing world leaders poured in following Netanyahu’s success.

The first message came from Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who praised Netanyahu for “once again” gaining “the trust of the people of #Israel in record numbers.”

“Congratulations to Prime Minister @netanyahu for an excellent showing in yesterday’s national elections,” he tweeted.

“While the official results have yet not been published, one matter is clear: you have – once again – gained the trust of the people of #Israel in record numbers.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations in both English and slightly stilted Hebrew, enthusing about “my dear friend Bibi.”

“My dear friend Bibi, Congratulations! You are a great friend of India, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to take our bilateral partnership to new heights,” Modi wrote.

Far-right Italian deputy PM Matteo Salvini praised “my friend Bibi” and offered “a hug to the people of #Israel.”

Nicos Anastasiades, president of the Republic of Cyprus, a recent regional ally of Israel, also offered his “congratulations for the victory of the @Likud_Party.”

“Dear @netanyahu congratulations for the victory of the @Likud_Party,” Anastasiades wrote on Twitter. “As the election result paves the way for your 5th term as @IsraeliPM, I would like to express my strong commitment to continue working with you for the benefit of our countries & regional peace & stability.”

But it wasn’t all praise and congratulations.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged Israelis to abandon strong “rhetoric and populism” now that the elections were over.

Cavusoglu’s comments were an apparent reference to Netanyahu’s recent pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he wins the election.

The minister told Turkey’s NTV news channel on Wednesday that Israel “must put aside the populism and the rhetoric, it must abandon its aggressive stance.”

Cavusoglu also called on the United States to be an “honest broker” in the Mideast dispute, saying a US peace plan for the region must be fair and objective toward Palestinians.

Germany said it will work closely with any new Israeli government and stressed the two countries’ “cordial” ties despite recent differences on Israel’s settlement policies.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Berlin was waiting for the official result of Tuesday’s parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands during a joint press conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on October 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Seibert told reporters that “Israel lies in a region with enormous challenges, which is why it’s important to form a government quickly.”

He declined to comment on Netanyahu’s re-election to a fifth term but said the German government “will work closely, cordially and faithfully with the new Israeli government.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said Israel is already fully aware of Germany’s concerns about Jewish settlements.

Also congratulating Netanyahu was Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

“I congratulate Mr. @Netanyahu for winning and keep my fingers crossed for him to continue his work as Prime Minister. I recently talked to him personally in Israel about our collaboration, medical cannabis treatment and, most importantly, the promotion of science and research, in which Israel is at the top of the world and we can learn from it,” tweeted Babis, who also hailed the “startup nation” as a “great inspiration for us.”

AP, Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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