"It looked like a total win for Netanyahu, who’s a great guy, he’s a great guy," Trump told reporters on the White House lawn Thursday morning before heading to Colorado to deliver the commencement speech at the Air Force Academy.
“And now they’re [Israel’s] back in the debate state and they’re back in the election stage,” Trump said. “That is too bad. Because they don’t need this. I mean they’ve got enough turmoil over there, it’s a tough place.”
Netanyahu missed a midnight Wednesday deadline to form a coalition government made up of his conservative Likud party and allied religious and nationalist parties after negotiations fell apart over military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. In response, the 120-member Israeli parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve, teeing up a new election for Sept. 17.
The dramatic political events took place hours before Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner visited Jerusalem to promote the administration's Middle East peace plan, which could be losing steam as Israel heads toward an unprecedented second election in a calendar year.
Netanyahu said Thursday that Kushner gifted him an official State Department map, which was updated to incorporate the long-disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel.
In a bid to play down the political chaos and focus public attention on his foreign policy prowess - in particular, his close friendship with Trump – during a news conference in Jerusalem on Thursday Netanyahu whipped out Kushner's map, on which the president had scribbled, "Nice."
The White House upended decades of official U.S. policy in March when it recognized Israeli sovereignty over the territory, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed.
The September election means there are now no guarantees that Netanyahu's Trump-friendly government will stay in power past the summer and any progress made with Kushner is at risk of being revoked by a new Israeli administration.
On Monday, as Netanyahu tried to put a coalition together, Trump tweeted that he hoped the Israeli leader could form a government in order to further strengthen ties between the countries.
“Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!” Trump wrote.
The meeting between Netanyahu, Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's envoy for international negotiations, was scheduled ahead of a conference scheduled in Bahrain for next month that is designed to highlight the economic benefits of a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Palestinians officials have cut off contact with the Trump administration, rejected the peace plan sight unseen and have urged Arab nations to boycott the Bahrain conference. Despite the boycott push, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have signaled they intend to participate.
A Trump administration official told Fox News on Thursday that the conference will go on as planned in late-June, and that the U.S. will release details of its peace plan at the appropriate time.
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty, Ben Evansky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.