A Biden Win Could Mean A Loss For Israel’s Netanyahu
October 17, 2020 News

By Daniel Estrin

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of President Trump’s closest allies, with each of them helping the other’s political fortunes. Now that could be in doubt.


NPR has been looking at what the election might mean for some of President Trump’s allies, and there might be no closer ally than Benjamin Netanyahu. The conservative Israeli leader has thrown in his lot with Trump so much that he could face trouble at home if Joe Biden becomes the next president. NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Praying in Hebrew).

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: When President Trump caught the coronavirus, a top Israeli rabbi prayed for the speedy recovery of Donald John, son of Fred.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Praying in Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Many in Israel are also praying Trump wins the elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have a lot to gain. His connection to Trump plays well with many Israelis, and he’s given Trump political support in turn. A month after entering the White House, Trump was blamed for a wave of anti-Semitism in the U.S., and Netanyahu came to Trump’s defense.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to rest.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much – very nice. I appreciate that very much.

ESTRIN: Trump won over Israelis doing things like recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though Palestinians claim part of the city for their capital. And as Netanyahu faced a series of elections, Trump gave him a boost, tweeting his support and hosting him at the White House. Now with Trump running for reelection, Netanyahu went back to the White House to sign peace deals with Arab countries.


NETANYAHU: Israel has never had a better friend than you – the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.


ESTRIN: Over the last decade, Netanyahu has curried favor with Republican leaders and evangelical groups while angering Democrats. But now Israeli officials are trying to play both sides.

DANNY DANON: I think both of them would be good with Israel.

ESTRIN: Danny Danon recently served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N.

DANON: Vice President Biden proved it with his long service in the Senate, and then President Trump proved it in the last four years.

ESTRIN: But can Netanyahu create inroads with a Biden administration? We asked Ayelet Frisch, senior adviser to the late Israeli president Shimon Peres. She sat in on private meetings with Biden.

AYELET FRISCH: (Through interpreter). I don’t believe that Biden and Netanyahu have the same trust relationship that Trump and Netanyahu have.

ESTRIN: She mentions that Netanyahu’s aides have become close confidants of Trump’s aides.

FRISCH: (Through interpreter) They created such a dramatic fabric of influence. I don’t believe there will be the same influence under a Biden administration.

ESTRIN: Biden says his administration could rejoin the Iran nuclear deal that Trump left, and it would reverse steps Trump took against Palestinians. Mitchell Barak is a pollster in Jerusalem.

MITCHELL BARAK: They’re going to start to try and make it a little more even-handed or to look more even-handed. And the free lunches that we’ve been getting up until now – we’re going to have to pay for some of those things. And then Netanyahu does not have the advantage because it’s going to be more of an antagonistic relationship.


ESTRIN: A Trump defeat would come at a bad time for Netanyahu. His approval ratings are slipping, and he’s on trial for corruption. And there are weekly demonstrations calling for his resignation. Left-wing protester Nehama Yehoshafat says the two right-wing leaders enable each other.

NEHAMA YEHOSHAFAT: I fear the relationship of two egomaniac, psychotic leaders who are driving the world into chaos for their own personal whims and interests. I think they deserve each other, but we don’t deserve them.

ESTRIN: A win for Biden could be a loss for Netanyahu in Israel.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

MARTIN: Tomorrow, Daniel brings us a very different view from Palestinians about what they are seeking from the U.S. election.

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