President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory improved the chances of a forthcoming US peace plan, despite deep skepticism from the Palestinians.
Trump, who had enthusiastically backed the right-wing premier’s bid for a fifth mandate, said that he telephoned Netanyahu to offer congratulations as results gave Netanyahu a narrow parliamentary majority.
“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” Trump told reporters, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
“Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance,” he added.
Centrist challenger Benny Gantz, a former military chief, conceded defeat with Netanyahu poised to form a coalition of hawkish and religious parties to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Trump had welcomed Netanyahu to the White House just two weeks before the election to offer his latest landmark gesture of support -- US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967.
Palestinian leaders are deeply skeptical of the US peace plan and have ruled out Trump as an honest broker after he recognized bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The peace plan is being developed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew whose close family ties to Netanyahu have heightened Palestinian suspicions on whether the US administration can serve as an honest broker.