- REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
- Israel’s government initially welcomed the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. Some right-wing politicians have recently accused Trump of failing on promises he made to Israel during his campaign. One Israeli minister has become extremely outspoken and may signal a shift in the country’s opinion of Trump.
A top Israeli government minister has turned into one of the country’s highest profile critics of President Donald Trump, and it may signal a larger shift in the country.
Ze’ev Elkin, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and one of the prime minister’s closest allies, has made waves in recent weeks with comments critical of Trump.
“It seems that the floodgates have been opened and Israel’s patience with Trump is running out,” The Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent Gil Hoffman wrote Friday.
Elkin, currently the Minister of Environmental Protection and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, took his most recent shot at Trump after he said the US would again delay moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a campaign promise made by Trump and a move required by a 1995 law passed by Congress.
Elkin said Monday that he is “disappointed” Trump hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promise.
“There were very clear election promises, not to the state of Israel but to the American voter, of moving the embassy and I very much regret the delay,” Elkin told Army Radio, adding that it was “incorrect” to claim that moving the embassy “will prevent peace.”
Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all signed six-month waivers to delay the move, which Trump also did in June.
Elkin has also been outspoken about the Trump administration’s efforts to push Israel to limit – but not end – settlement building in the West Bank, a contested territory under Israeli control where most Palestinians live.
Elkin said in an interview with NRG that while Trump’s administration is “far friendlier” than former President Barack Obama’s, they are still pressuring Israel to mitigate their settlement building.
“On this matter, the administration continues with the Obama tradition,” Elkin said.
He specifically mentioned pushback in the West Bank city of Hebron.
“Even this current administration, as friendly to us as they are, need to be told that some things are a national interest,” Elkin said.
Elkin told Hoffman in the article published Friday that while he is not expressing the views of the prime minister, he still feels free to speak his mind on Trump – claiming that it has helped him politically within his right-wing party. The minister also said that Netanyahu has not rebuked him for his criticism of the US president.
Israeli ministers have not received guidelines “to watch their words” on Trump, as is sometimes the case regarding important US decisions, Hoffman reported. Other top Likud members have now also started to criticize Trump.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli minister repeated his comparison of Trump to Obama, who still has a negative reputation among Israel’s right-wing.
“It’s, of course, still better than under Obama, but on other foreign policy issues, Trump changed his country’s policies 180 degrees, and with us he unfortunately hasn’t,” Elkin said.
Elkin’s comments aren’t the only sign that problems have been cropping up between Trump and the Middle East country – even after Trump called himself Israel’s “biggest friend.”
A recent report in Haaretz reveals that the president has described his Israeli counterpart as a “problem” while he pushes for a peace plan.
During a sideline meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the General Assembly last month, Trump described problems he had with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Haaretz’ diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid.
“But the general context was that from the two of them, Netanyahu is the bigger problem,” a Western diplomat who was briefed on the meeting told Haaretz.