In Israel, Donald Trump’s defeat is a setback for Benyamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Lod (Israel), November 9, 2020.

What if he forgot Jerusalem? Joe Biden’s victory in the American presidential election produced a double effect of breath in Israel: it relegates the country far to the list of American priorities, and deals a blow to the stature of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had benefited from his proximity to Donald Trump.

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After four years during which the Israelis had become accustomed to no longer perceive the slightest “day” between the positions of the White House and those of their government, this election is a setback for Mr. Netanyahu. He who has shaped his image, over three electoral campaigns, since March 2019, as one of the few leaders in the world to have almost unfiltered access to the White House, will have to face a Democratic administration that his entourage fears hostile.

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This farewell to a community of destiny was first manifested by a long silence. The Prime Minister will have waited for Sunday morning to greet “Joe”, by evoking their “A long and warm relationship for nearly forty years”. A closeness sealed to the beginnings of Mr. Netanyahu, when he was a brilliant diplomat in Washington, in the 1980s, and that the two men were dating as a family, recalls an adviser to Mr. Biden. The Prime Minister welcomed their future work together, without however mentioning Joe Biden’s presidential victory, nor his status as president-elect.

It was a way, Israeli observers speculated, of not appearing to let go of Mr. Trump, as soon as the American press announced his defeat. But it was also not to spoil the last weeks of this administration, when Mr. Trump’s envoy for Iran went to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to discuss an acceleration of sanctions against the Islamic Republic until the end of his term in January.

Balance of power

For weeks, Mr. Netanyahu’s entourage has recalled that he spared Mr. Biden, when he was staging his “Resistance” to Barack Obama, the ” worst “ president of American history, according to him, for Israel. The Prime Minister had tried to use it as a bypass channel. An anecdote sums up this balance of power: in 2010, Mr. Biden put his arm amicably on the shoulder of Uzi Arad, a close advisor to Mr. Netanyahu, while the two men were visiting Washington, slipping him “Just remember I’m your fucking best friend here.”

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