Supporters of Israel with links to Northern Ireland have welcomed the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu for a record fifth term as Prime Minister, after his biggest election challenger, Benny Gantz, admitted defeat.
Nearing the end of the count on Wednesday, both men’s parties were neck and neck.
However a coalition between Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and smaller right-wing and religious parties could form a 65 seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. However, he could also soon be indicted on corruption charges.
DUP councillor William Humphrey, a member of the NI Friends of Israel and the DUP Friends of Israel, welcomed the result.
“I would like to congratulate Mr Netanyahu on his re-election and wish him well as he builds his government,” he said. “Next week we are meeting with Invest NI to encourage greater industrial and commercial links and sharing of information and expertise. We are also asking to see Northern Ireland companies included in the UK trade delegations that visit Israel.”
Regarding a bill passing through the Dublin Parliament which would make it illegal to buy goods from ‘occupied’ parts of Israel, he said: “That is a matter for the Dublin parliament.”
The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 has passed two stages in the Dail but has another four to go before it would become law. However the Irish government says it will block it.
Paddy Monaghan, of the Irish Christian Friends of Israel, also welcomed Mr Netanyahu’s re-election.
“I am absolutely thrilled and think he is God’s key man in Israel at this time,” he said. “Mr Netanyahu’s left wing rivals have no political experience and can be quite naive. Left wing politicians led Israel to pull out of Gaza and conceded everything at that time. As result Israel has been left vulnerable to missiles being fired out of Gaza ever since.”
But Gary Spedding, a political consultant on Israel-Palestine issues, said Netanyahu’s “right wing” victory would be “bad news for peace and Palestinians”.
He hopes the Irish boycott bill will pass into law but noted that the Dublin government is strongly opposed and are likely to block it.
Stephen Jaffe of NI Friends of Israel said the election was billed as a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership. “There is no doubt ‘Bibi’ is divisive in Israeli terms, but for many Israelis he is the leader most able to keep Israel safe at a time of regional turmoil and global uncertainty,” he said.