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Israelis Cautiously Optimistic on President-elect Trump

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TEL AVIV, Israel – President-elect Donald Trump's victory surprised and pleased many Israelis as it did many Americans. What this new presidency will mean for Israel and the Middle East remains to be seen.

Calling Trump his friend and a supporter of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the new president by phone. Trump invited him to meet in the U.S. at the earliest opportunity.

"Over the years you've expressed your support consistently and I deeply appreciate it. I look forward to working with you to advance security, prosperity and peace," Netanyahu said. "And I'm confident that the two of us, working closely together, will bring the great alliance between our two countries to even greater heights.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro also gave a bright outlook for U.S.-Israeli relations.

"The new administration will inherit a great deal of continuity and a great deal of achievement in the U.S.-Israel partnership that has its security dimension – with all of the assistance we provide Israel and all of the joint agreements on technology development from missile defense to tunneling to cyber to the signing of the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding]," Shapiro told reporters in Tel Aviv.

Israelis, like many others around the world, believed polls that predicted Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.

"There are a lot of people in the Middle East stunned at this moment and trying to process what this new world [will] look like," said author and Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg.

Rosenberg told CBN News the incoming vice president would help ease any uncertainty.

"I think most Middle Eastern experts, government officials aren't sure how to process this new moment because it was so unexpected to them, but I think they will see, especially in Gov. Pence, a force for stability and a track record and if Mr. Trump begins to build a team like Gov. Pence, this could be very healthy for the region," he said.

Rosenberg believes a national security team of experienced conservatives would help clarify the U.S. position in the Middle East.

"Are we withdrawing or are we making choices to strengthen our alliances and defeat radical Islamic, apocalyptic Islamic forces like ISIS?" he asked.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, Israelis had mixed reactions to the election, but all said they believed Trump would be better for Israel.

"I'm very surprised – I thought that it will be Hillary," one woman said.

"I think these are the right results. I think Donald Trump is suitable for this role," one man told CBN News.

"It's really hard to have an opinion when everything you see is the media and I think that people are very affected by it," another woman said. "I also heard people in Israel say Trump will be good for Israel so I can only hope."

"It was a surprise. I didn't think he's going to win," another said. "They said Hillary's going to win. I am afraid."

"I'm in shock. I thought it would be different," another man said. "It even scares me." Nevertheless, he said, "For [Israel] I think the connection will be good between the new government [and] Israel."  

One young woman told CBN News, "I'm not happy because I preferred Clinton because Trump is very sexist and chauvinistic. From a policy standpoint, I think, though, he has interests, good connections, from an economic standpoint. I think he also wants this friendship with Israel."

"I'm very happy about the Trump result because he's a strong man," a woman told us. "He's looked at the situation in the United States like a business problem, which has to be sorted out.  And I think he's got the ability to try and do that. I think he is a strong man who will face Putin as a strong man and will work very well with Netanyahu, who's also a strong man."

As the election dust settles and the U.S. grapples with the results, Israel and the rest of the Middle East are waiting to see just how Trump's campaign rhetoric will materialize in the region.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism, then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91, and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the