US President Donald Trump congratulated his close ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his 70th birthday as the embattled Israeli leader continued to fight for his political survival.
“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.
Trump thanked Netanyahu for his “strong leadership and loyal friendship,” describing the Israeli leader as “one of my closest allies.”
Trump added:”I look forward to the continued success we will have working together.”
Netanyahu’s political future is murky after he acknowledged Monday that he had failed to form a majority government in parliament, marking a major setback for the embattled Israeli leader that plunges the country into a new period of political uncertainty.
“You are great!” Trump added in a handwritten message at the bottom of the letter.
תודה לך ידידי הנשיא טראמפ על הברכות החמות ליום הולדתי. הברית והידידות בינינו חזקים מאי פעם!
Thank you to my friend President Trump for your warm words on my birthday. Our alliance and friendship have never been stronger. pic.twitter.com/HnBdd0pgC1
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 22, 2019
Netanyahu in response thanked Trump for his “warm words,” posting on Twitter Tuesday evening that US-Israel ties “have never been stronger.”
Netanyahu made his close relationship with Trump a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, erecting billboards across the country showing him with the US president — among other foreign leaders — and casting aspersions on his rivals’ ability to match his diplomatic achievements.
But Netanyahu’s diplomatic bona fides were not enough to secure a new term as prime minister after last month’s election. Netanyahu fell short of securing a 61-seat Knesset majority in the September vote.
President Revuen Rivlin gave him the first opportunity to form a government because he had more support — 55 lawmakers — than his main rival Benny Gantz, who was supported by only 54. On Monday, Netanyahu said he had worked “tirelessly” to establish a unity government with Gantz, but had been repeatedly rebuffed. Facing a Wednesday deadline, Netanyahu said he was returning the “mandate” to Rivlin, who is now expected to give Gantz 28 days to try and form a governing coalition.
During the weeks leading up to this year’s first Knesset election in April, the White House made several moves that were seen by many as efforts to help Netanyahu secure reelection.
In February, the US president shared on Instagram Netanyahu’s post showing a campaign billboard depicting him with the Israeli premier.
A month later Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and hosted Netanyahu at a White House ceremony (but denied that the move was timed to boost Netanyahu at the polls).
In June, Trump publicly thanked Netanyahu and the State of Israel for the “great honor” of naming a town in the Golan Heights after him; and in July, he congratulated Netanyahu for becoming Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, saying that under his leadership, “Israel has become a technology powerhouse and a world class economy.”
Ahead of last month’s election re-do, Netanyahu said that he had received Trump’s “endorsement” and asserted that “the Jewish State has never had a greater friend in the White House.”