Netanyahu: Israel Might Have It Easier Under Trump, but There Could Be Restrictions

The prime minister said Israel needs to continue to act carefully under Trump as it did under Obama.

Netanyahu and Bennett at the Knesset, December 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that while Israel may have it easier under U.S. President Donald Trump than his predecessor, it doesn't mean that the new administration won't set limits.

Speaking at a meeting of Likud ministers, Netanyahu addressed Education Minister Naftali Bennett's demand that the premier declare the two-state solution is irrelevant during his meeting with Trump in Washington on Wednesday.

"After eight years of complicated maneuvering in the Obama era, we need to continue to act judiciously during the Trump era," he said. 

"I have known Trump for years but we are meeting in our official capacities for the first time," he said. 

The prime minister further said that while Israel might have it easier under Trump than under Barack Obama, "that doesn't mean that there won't be restrictions." 

Netanyahu addressed disagreements within Likud and with Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party over the meeting with Trump, saying that "arguments can take place, but they shouldn't be public. There isn’t a substantial disagreement, and it only does harm."

During the Likud meeting, several ministers slammed Bennett. "No one can teach the prime minister how to manage the state," Culture Minister Miri Regev said. 

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis added: "We shouldn't pay attention to every tweet [by Bennett]. It only empowers them."

Netanyahu said that the discussion over the Trump meeting will continue during the security cabinet meeting on Sunday afternoon. 

At the Likud ministers meeting, Akunis and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Ze'ev Elkin voiced opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Minister Yuval Steinitz, however, spoke differently. "Anyone who thinks that you can throw away the Bar-Ilan speech doesn't understand international reality," Steinitz said, referring to Netanyahu's 2009 speech in which he reiterated Israel's commitment to the two state-solution. "Even if there's no partner today, it's still the leading principle," Steinitz said.  

At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu again commented on his scheduled meeting with Trump and jabbed at Bennett. "I hear and understand there's a lot of excitement ahead of this meeting, with all kinds of motivations behind it," Netanyahu said. "But my motivation is one – the national interest of Israel. That requires responsible policy of judiciousness and that's how I intend to act. I have navigated the relationship between Israel and the U.S. in a thoughtful manner and I will continue to do so," he said.