Netanyahu congratulates Biden, ‘a great friend of Israel’

Israeli prime minister and close Donald Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory early Sunday, calling the United States president-elect “a great friend of Israel”.

“I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter, referring to Biden and running mate Kamala Harris.

Netanyahu, whose Twitter account features a picture of himself seated next to Trump, said he and Biden had “a long and warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel.”

The Israeli premier had described Trump as his country’s strongest-ever ally in the White House, and the Republican advanced policies that delighted the Israeli prime minister’s right-wing base.

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Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—an agreement between Tehran and world powers loathed by Netanyahu—and recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.

He also endorsed Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights—which was seized from Syria—and avoided criticising Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu, along with his defence and foreign ministers, had been criticised the previous evening Saturday by opposition leader Yair Lapid for not congratulating Biden on his victory in a timely manner.

“The fact that Netanyahu, (Benny) Gantz and (Gabi) Ashkenazi have yet to congratulate the US president-elect is shameful cowardice that harms Israel’s interest,” Lapid said.

“If the president of France, the chancellor of Germany and prime minister of Britain can do so, you can too,” he wrote on Twitter.

Defence minister Gantz and foreign minister Ashkenazi congratulated the president-elect and Harris hours later, following Biden’s victory speech.

According to a poll before the US election by the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank, 63 per cent of Israelis wanted Trump to win a second term.

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