Netanyahu Says New Election Is 'Little Event.' Trump: 'Too Bad'

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Israel along with Jason Greenblatt and peace plan team, just hours before the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and hold a new election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner in Israel, May 30, 2019.
Kobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner Thursday that Israel's new election, decided late Wednesday after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition, is a "little event.".

Kushner is in Israel alongside Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to discuss the administration’s plan for Middle East peace and the economic conference scheduled to take place in Bahrain next month.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that it was “too bad" Netanyahu failed to build a coalition on time, and that Netanyahu is “a great guy.” The president’s comment, made during a short media appearance, was his administration’s first reaction to the declaration of a new election in Israel this September.

Trump was heavily involved in the previous Israeli election, using his influence on several times to help Netanyahu’s political campaign. 

"Even though we had a little event last night, that's not going to stop us, we're going to continue working together. We had a great, productive meeting which reaffirms that the alliance between the United States has never been stronger," Netanyahu said following a Knesset vote Wednesday night to dissolve itself and hold a new elections, just seven weeks after the previous one.

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The envoy arrived in Israel Wednesday night evening, accompanied by Kushner's deputy Avi Berkowitz and Iran Special Envoy Brian Hook, following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. 

They met with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, and are expected to meet with Netanyahu on Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, Kushner met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman where Abdullah restated his commitment to the two-state solution, with the formation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, a position that appears to be at odds with President Donald Trump's still undisclosed "Deal of the Century."

Jordan is a key player in this political and diplomatic battle; historically, it is responsible for safeguarding Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem; it has a peace treaty with Israel; and a majority of its citizens are Palestinians. A Jordanian rejection of the peace plan could make it harder for other Arab countries to embrace it, whereas flexibility toward the plan by Amman will likely make it easier for others to follow suit.

Amman has so far not announced whether or not it will participate in the economic conference on June 25-26, which will focus on the future of the Palestinian economy. The Trump administration will release the economic chapter of the peace plan before the conference, but not the political part, which deals with more sensitive aspects of the conflict.

The envoy also traveled to Morocco over the course of the trip, which is intended to bolster support for the plan and economic conference. The workshop is being boycotted by the Palestinian Authority.

The Trump administration’s small team working on the Middle East peace plan — which is led by Kushner — is currently locked in a battle with the PA over how the Arab world will respond to its plan.

Kushner arrived Tuesday in Morocco to seek King Mohammed VI's backing for economic elements of the Trump administration's peace plan. Morocco, alongside Jordan, has yet to offer any public position on either the peace plan or the Bahrain meeting.

The Palestinians hope Arab countries will support their position and reject the plan, which they believe will be one-sided and skewed in favor of Israel. The administration, meanwhile, hopes to convince as many Arab nations as possible to at least consider the plan as a basis for negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their regional rival Qatar have already told the Trump administration they will attend. Meanwhile, a senior PA official stated Monday that both China and Russia will be boycotting the event.

The Russian foreign ministry took a dim view of the conference in a statement on Tuesday, saying the United States was attempting to "impose an 'alternative vision' of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement." 

"The Palestinian leadership has already categorically refused to take part, saying that the PLO will not surrender to anyone its exclusive rights to make crucial decisions regarding the realization of Palestinians' national aspirations," it said. 

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.