Israel needs rethink on ‘angry’ US Democrats, new foreign minister Lapid says

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Israel’s new foreign minister said on Monday that Israel must change the way it deals with US Democrats, who he said had been abandoned by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The Republicans are important to us, but not just them. We find ourselves, as you know well, facing a Democratic White House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic Congress,” Yair Lapid told Israeli diplomats.

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“And these Democrats are angry.”

Lapid vowed to improve relations with US Democrats while ending “hostile” ties with Europe he accused Benjamin Netanyahu of cultivating.

The centrist broker who forged an unlikely coalition deal to unseat the hawkish former prime minister told foreign ministry staff that under Netanyahu’s 12-year-rule Israel had “abandoned the international arena.”

“Our relationship with too many governments has been neglected and become hostile,” Lapid, a 57-year-old former television presenter, said.

“Shouting that everyone is anti-Semitic isn’t a policy or a work plan, even if it sometimes feels right.”

After coming to power in 2009, Netanyahu has strained relations with former US president Barack Obama, a Democrat, before forming a tight bond with his Republican successor Donald Trump.

“The management of the relationship with the Democratic Party in the United States was careless and dangerous,” Lapid said.

“I’ve warned against it more than once, but the outgoing government took a terrible gamble, reckless and dangerous, to focus exclusively on the Republican Party and abandon Israel’s bipartisan standing.”

He added: “We find ourselves with a Democratic White House, Senate and House and they are angry. We need to change the way we work with them.”

The new Israeli foreign minister said he had spoken with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and that both agreed to “build relations based on mutual respect and better dialogue.”

Lapid succeeds Gabi Ashkenazi, a former army chief-of-staff, who became chief diplomat in 2020 as part of a power-sharing deal between the Netanyahu camp and opposition parties.

Lapid also said he would work to improve Israel’s standing internationally as well as ties with Europeans leaders, adding that he had “exchanged messages” with French President Emmanuel Macron and spoken to the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

He also vowed that Israel “will do whatever it takes to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb” and said he was opposed to a revived nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that could see the United States rejoin the accord.

And one month after a deadly 11-day war broke out between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas militants, Lapid reaffirmed that “Israel has every right to defend itself.”

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