Bennett: Trump Has Changed His Tune on Israel Since the Election and It's Not Clear Why

'During the campaign, he often talked in praise of settling throughout the Land of Israel and about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,' Israeli education minister notes, adding that Trump must understand there will never be a Palestinian state

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, May 14, 2017.
Emil Salman

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett noted a shift in U.S. President Donald Trump's positions on Israel at a party meeting on Monday.

"During the campaign, he often talked in praise of settling throughout the Land of Israel and about moving the [American] embassy to Jerusalem," Bennett, who serves as education minister in the cabinet said ahead of Trump's visit to Israel next week. "From his election to now, his tune has changed, and the impetus behind the change is not entirely clear."

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Bennett said the fact that "Trump's first visit as president outside the United States will be to Israel is a signal that he intends to maintain and strengthen the long friendship between Israel and the U.S., which is of strategic importance." Trump will actually travel to Saudi Arabia before arriving in Israel.

Bennett then proposed to "tell the truth...Anybody with a mind understands that beyond a Palestinian state in Gaza, we will not allow the establishment of a second Palestinian state," adding that "simply won't happen, and that should be stated. No Palestinian state will arise between the sea and the Jordan River, and Jerusalem will be the united capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty for eternity. Only Israeli sovereignty. I believe that if we are clear and resolute, the other side will respect us."

The Netanyahu and Trump governments had their first public clash Sunday over the embassy issue. After U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that the Israeli government itself might have second thoughts about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Prime Minister's Office's office hastened to respond, saying Netanyahu told Washington that he does want the embassy relocated. 

Tillerson told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Trump is studying how keeping his promise to move the embassy would affect the peace process, and added that Trump hadn't made a final decision on the matter yet. 

Tillerson explained that "the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have." 

The presidential order signed by the previous U.S. president, Barack Obama, suspending execution of a law to move the embassy, expires on June 1. Trump has to make a decision by that time. 

Tillerson's statement was the first open one by an American official suggesting that moving the embassy could impair the administration's effort to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian process and achieve an agreement.

Shortly after Tillerson's statement, Bennett tweeted that he called on Netanyahu to tell Trump that Israel expects the embassy to relocate, which would strengthen Israel and the probability of a true peace. "Any agreement based on dividing Jerusalem is fated to fail," Bennett wrote.

The day before, the prime minister and Bennett sparred over another U.S. administration statement, this one from U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that Trump might recognize the Palestinians' right to self-definition.