US President Donald Trump wished Israel a happy Independence Day in letters to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday, praising US-Israel ties as well as his own administration’s “significant actions” toward building the relationship with Jewish state.
In the missive, sent as Israel celebrated its 72nd Independence Day, Trump held up his administration’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem along with the founding of the state in 1948 as two historic milestones.
“It gives me tremendous pride that the United States was the first country to recognize the newly re-established Jewish State in 1948,” Trump wrote in the letter, released by Rivlin’s office.
“Exactly seven decades to the day after Prime Minister [David] Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence, Israel and the United States shared another historic moment when the United States opened its embassy in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. This achievement has been one of many significant actions by my Administration to rebuild the US-Israel relationship.”
Trump’s description of Israel’s founding as the “re-established Jewish State,” could be seen as a nod to Israeli claims on the West Bank as part of areas that fell under Jewish sovereignty thousands of years ago. US Ambassador David Friedman recently referred to part of the West Bank as the “biblical heartland of Israel,” in explaining a US policy shift away from calling settlement activity illegal.
The Trump administration has signaled in recent weeks its willingness to recognize Israel’s planned annexation of large swaths of the West Bank, in a move that would likely anger the international community and could inflame regional tensions.
The Trump peace plan unveiled earlier this year — which was rejected by the Palestinians and much of the international community — gave Israel the green light to annex settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley area.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with the Trump administration, considering it biased. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened last week to cancel all agreements with Israel and the US if Israel moved forward with annexation plans.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that annexation was ultimately “an Israeli decision,” while Netanyahu said Sunday that he was “confident” Trump would let him fulfill his election promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank “a couple of months from now.”
“Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s rights in all of Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. “And President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley.”
“A couple of months from now, I’m confident that pledge will be honored,” Netanyahu said.
In Trump’s letter, he said that the cooperation between Israel and the US would also allow the two countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“This Independence Day will occur as the world struggles to confront the challenges presented by COVID-19, and I want to commend our continuing close collaboration to protect our people and defeat this pandemic together,” he concluded.
Other leaders from around the world have also sent letters to Rivlin and Netanyahu congratulating Israel for its Independence Day.
“Among those sending greetings were Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, His Majesty King Carl Gustav of Sweden, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phravajiraklaochaoyuhua of Thailand along with Australia’s governor-general and the presidents of Russia, China, South Korea, Germany and Italy,” according to a statement from the President’s Office.
From the US House of Representatives, the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus congratulated Israel not only on its “remarkable achievements and contributions to the world, but also the shared values that have sealed the friendship between the United States and the State of Israel for so many decades,” the statement added.
The president’s office also said that Rivlin received letters from ambassadors, heads of Jewish communities and Jewish organizations from around the world.