US President Donald Trump has distanced himself from his old political ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after his Likud party failed to win the election this week.
Speaking to reporters on his way to California on Wednesday, Trump took a reserved attitude toward Netanyahu, who relied on his personal relationship with the White House president in his campaign for re-election.
Trump mentioned that after the Knesset election, he had not spoken to Netanyahu and played down the latter’s importance to the US-Israeli alliance, saying: “Our relations are with Israel, so we’ll see what happens.”
Former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said this showed that Trump “felt Netanyahu’s weakness” and wanted to give distance himself from the “loser” in the elections.
Aaron David Miller, a former US adviser on Israel and Palestine, said Trump is more interested in bolstering his popularity within the United States, especially among Jewish voters, than Netanyahu’s election chances, adding: “Trump only cares about one election, and it’s not Netanyahu’s.”
The Washington Post quoted current and former administration officials as stressing that the US president had been troubled in recent months by Netanyahu’s strong opposition to his plans to soften his tough approach to Iran with a view to sign a possible deal.
“Yes, he [Trump] is friends with Bibi [Netanyahu, but he also likes winners and he wants to move his peace plan forward no matter who the prime minister in Israel is,” the paper quoted an Israeli official saying.
Though final election results have not been released, votes counted so far show Netanyahu has little hope of leading a new coalition government.