Netanyahu calls Trump ‘true friend’ of Israel

Netanyahu has congratulated Donald Trump, calling him a "true friend of the State of Israel"

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has congratulated Donald Trump, calling him a "true friend of the State of Israel."

Netanyahu said Wednesday he believes the two leaders "will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights."

Earlier, a key ally in Netanyahu's center-right coalition, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, said Trump's victory means that "the era of a Palestinian state is over." The Palestinians want a state in lands Israel captured in 1967.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett, who heads the hardline Jewish Home party, said in an apparent reference to the occupied West Bank.

“This is the position of the president-elect ... The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Jewish Home, called on Trump to follow through on his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a break with the consistent policy of successive administrations, Republican as well as Democrat.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, also called for the embassy to be moved, as did Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

There was no immediate reaction from Netanyahu himself.

The prime minister caused controversy when he ruled out a Palestinian state ahead of a 2015 general election, but later backtracked and has since expressed support for the two-state solution.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while the Israelis call the entire city their eternal indivisible capital.

Trump has pledged to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

US traditional stance on Israel

Zvi Bar’el, an Israeli Middle Eastern affairs analyst for Haaretz Newspaper, wrote in a column piece that “Congress always has been and always will be with us, the Pentagon needs us, and American Jewry will ensure our welfare.”

His views are echoed by The Israeli Project, a US-based pro-Israel lobby group, who previously told Reuters that the “traditional” stance of Washington standing by Tel Aviv will “continue.”

“We enjoy and appreciate the strong bipartisan support we get,” said Lior Weintraub, vice-president of The Israel Project, and a former chief of staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

“We believe either president will continue the tradition of the many presidents from both sides of the aisle of fostering the alliance on every front, from security to culture.”

(With AFP, Reuters and the Associated Press)

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