Joe Biden, then vice president, speaks at the AIPAC 2016 Policy Conference on March 20, 2016. (Photo/JTA-Molly Riley-AFP via Getty Images)
Joe Biden, then vice president, speaks at the AIPAC 2016 Policy Conference on March 20, 2016. (Photo/JTA-Molly Riley-AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli leaders and Jewish groups congratulate Biden and Harris even as Trump refuses to concede

Israeli leaders and top American Jewish organizations have congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election victory, despite President Donald Trump protesting the result.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to his long relationship with Biden in a congratulatory tweet, which was posted Sunday morning Israel time. Biden was projected Saturday morning to be president-elect after the voting result showed him winning Pennsylvania’s vote, and thus the Electoral College and the presidency.

“Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris,” Netanyahu tweeted. “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.”

Biden also received congratulations from Jewish groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobby in Washington, D.C.

“AIPAC congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their election victory,” the AIPAC statement read. “Despite the current profound political polarization, there remains a resolute bipartisan commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance as both presidential tickets took strong pro-Israel positions.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee were among the other Jewish groups who offered congratulations to the Democratic ticket.

Biden has a reputation for being a friend to Israel, and has spoken frequently of his relationships with Israel’s leaders of decades past, as well as with Netanyahu. When he won the Democratic nomination earlier this year, it was seen as a victory for the traditionally pro-Israel camp within the Democratic Party over elements of the party that are more critical of Israel.

But he will be succeeding a president popular with most Israelis and their center-right coalition government. Trump’s policies unabashedly favored Israel’s government throughout his administration, and he consistently received high approval ratings from Israelis, an outlier among international opinion polls on Trump’s performance. He was particularly close with Netanyahu, who featured Trump in his own reelection campaigns this year and last.

Trump likewise touted his Middle East policies on the campaign trail, including moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing disputed Israeli territorial claims, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and, in recent months, brokering diplomatic agreements between Israel and three Arab nations.

Netanyahu, whose background photo on his Twitter account features him and Trump, followed up his congratulations to Biden with a tweet thanking Trump for his actions.

“Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights,” he wrote.

Other Israeli politicians, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, congratulated Biden earlier in the night. Gantz extended “heartfelt congratulations” to Biden, whom he called a”long-time supporter and friend of Israel.” He expressed optimism in a tweet thread and also thanked Trump for his pro-Israel policies.

Gantz is slated to become prime minister of Israel late next year in a rotation with Netanyahu.

“I look forward to continuing to deepen the steadfast bond and strong defense ties between our peoples, as allies in the effort to strengthen democracy, stability, and peace worldwide,” he wrote. “The Middle East has taken major steps forward thanks to the president’s bold leadership over these four years, and for that we are immensely grateful.”

Ashkenazi tweeted that Biden’s “friendship and distinguished record of support for Israel dates back nearly half a century.

Israel’s leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, tweeted, “Congratulations to my friend President-Elect @JoeBiden and Vice President-Elect @KamalaHarris. The relationship between our countries is based on deeply held values and critical shared interests which I know will be at the heart of your administration.”

Lapid, who posted his tweet hours before the messages released by Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi, slammed the Israeli leaders for not issuing their messages right away. Their congratulations came hours after similar messages from other world leaders.

Liberal Jewish critics of Trump and Netanyahu have bene critical of the president’s overall approach to the region, saying it failed to prioritize the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

J Street, the liberal Israel lobby that has consistently been critical of Trump, tweeted, “Almost 4 years ago today, we pledged to make sure Donald Trump was a one-term president. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, the fight for the soul of the nation continues.”

Ben Sales
Ben Sales

JTA reporter

JTA

Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.