Israel Election Results: Trump Says Hasn't Called Netanyahu Yet, 'Our Relationship Is With Israel'

In first reaction since preliminary votes were announced, U.S. president says he's following election results closely

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington, D.C.
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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu on stage after an official dinner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu on stage after an official dinner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday he is closely following the results of Israel's election, emphasizing that no matter what happens, "our relationship is with Israel." (Live election results - click here)

Speaking on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport, Trump said he had not yet called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump's comment was the first reaction from his administration to Netanyahu's failure to get to a majority in the Knesset for the right-wing, religious bloc.

>> Read more: Netanyahu will pull out all the stops - including military action - to hold on to power | Opinion ■ Defeated, Netanyahu looks to Iran and Trump for salvation | Analysis

Trump used a phrase he often does - "we'll see what happens" - to describe his administration's next steps regarding Israel. His insistence that the administration's support of Israel is not about a specific party contradicts one of Netanyahu's main campaign themes.

Netanyahu used Trump's support for Israel as a main theme in his election campaign, taking credit for Trump's decisions to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and decision to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Trump reposting Netanyahu's Instagram photo of his election billboard

Netanyahu's Likud party also put up giant billboards all over Israel presenting a picture of the two leaders shaking hands together with a slogan saying, "Netanyahu, another league."

In the run-up to the previous election in April, Trump seemed more eager to help the prime minister's campaign. He shared a picture of one of the posters on his social media accounts, and praised Netanyahu as a "great" leader. He also sent his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to visit Israel two months before Election Day, for a visit which included a first-of-its-kind stop at the Western Wall, together with Netanyahu.

In the run-up to this week's election, the president was less vocal. Aside from his tweet on the potential defense pact negotiations - which didn't make top headlines in Israel - he did not provide Netanyahu with any significant "gesture" of support. In fact, Netanyahu was criticized by his opponents over the past two weeks, when it became apparent that Trump was considering new negotiations with Iran.

The statement Trump made Wednesday was the first time he made any kind of distinction between Netanyahu himself and Israel as a country. Perhaps coincidentally, it came out just hours after Netanyahu's office anounced the cancellation of his visit to this year's UN General Assembly in New York, during which Netanyahu and Trump were scheduled to meet.

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