JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he made no distinction between Democrats and Republicans and intended to stand up for Israel’s interests in the face of a new American administration.
The Israeli leader has been trying to sound a message of bipartisanship since Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Netanyahu’s close friend, Donald Trump, in last week’s presidential election. Critics have accused Netanyahu of tilting too far toward the Republicans and turning Israel into a partisan issue in Washington.
“What I see before my eyes is not Democrats and not Republicans. It is just the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech to parliament. “I am committed to stand behind the interests that are crucial to our future and our existence and this is how I will continue even with the next American administration.”
Netanyahu spoke ahead of a vote meant to ratify Israel’s recent agreement establishing diplomatic relations with the Gulf state of Bahrain.
In the speech, Netanyahu thanked Trump, who has delivered a series of diplomatic gifts to Israel, for his support. He also thanked Biden for supporting deals brokered by Trump normalizing Israeli ties with three Arab countries — Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan.
With Trump challenging the election results, Netanyahu did not refer to either man as “president.” That omission followed his belated congratulatory statement to Biden on his election win. The delay was widely seen as stemming from concern of offending Trump.
Netanyahu had a cooler relationship with President Barack Obama. With Biden expected to restore a similar approach to Obama, Netanyahu may have a harder time carrying out his more nationalistic policies, like building West Bank settlements.
The Israeli leader vowed to stick to his positions.
“That’s how a prime minister in Israel must act,” he said. “Not by submitting or groveling and also not arrogantly but with the wisdom, courage, dignity of a person who fights for his people, for his land and for his country,” he added.