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Netanyahu responds to Trump's 'F*ck Bibi' onslaught

Savaged by Trump, Netanyahu says he had to congratulate Biden on election victory

Branded disloyal by last president, ex-PM explains vital Israel-US alliance required him to praise Democratic winner; hails Trump’s ‘great contribution’ to Israel and its security

Then-US president Donald Trump (right) with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump's departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)
Then-US President Donald Trump (right) with then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday said he “really appreciates” former United States president Donald Trump’s backing for Israel, after the former American leader raged at him in an expletive-led assault for congratulating US President Joe Biden on his election win last year. Netanyahu explained that he had to congratulate the Democratic presidential victor for the sake of the vital US-Israel relationship.

“Former prime minister Netanyahu really appreciates the great contribution that president Trump made to the State of Israel and its security,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

“He also really appreciates the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and the US, and it was therefore important for him to congratulate the incoming president,” the statement added, referring to Biden.

The comments came hours after the release of comments in which Trump said Netanyahu’s congratulatory message to Biden came too quickly after the election results were announced, results he continues to contest to this day.

“He was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him,” Trump said in an interview with journalist Barak Ravid.

Netanyahu was actually quite late in congratulating Biden in November of last year, conspicuously doing so long hours after many other world leaders.

US President Joe Biden talks on the phone from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on December 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump spoke to Ravid in April and July for the Israeli reporter’s new Hebrew-language book, “Trump’s Peace,” about the normalization deals between Israel and Arab states, which were brokered with the help of the Trump administration.

Excerpts from the interview were released Friday by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily ahead of the book’s release on Sunday.

Trump’s denial of Biden’s election victory led him to boycott his inauguration. It also led to the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, for which the US House of Representatives impeached the former president for a second time.

Ravid writes for Israel’s Walla news site and the Axios news site in the US.

Speaking to Ravid, the former president said no one had helped Netanyahu more than he did, and he therefore considered it a betrayal when Netanyahu congratulated Biden on his election victory, even as Trump falsely claimed that the election had been stolen.

“Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” Trump said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. He was “the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with.”

“But I also like loyalty. The first person to congratulate Biden was Bibi. And not only did he congratulate him, he did it on tape. And it was on tape.

“I was personally disappointed in him,” he said. “Bibi could have stayed quiet. He made a terrible mistake.”

In a further passage, published on Axios, Trump elaborated: “For Bibi Netanyahu, before the ink was even dry, to do a message, and not only a message, to do a tape to Joe Biden talking about their great, great friendship — they didn’t have a friendship, because if they did, [the Obama administration] wouldn’t have done the Iran deal. And guess what, now they’re going to do it again.”

Then-US president Donald Trump watches as then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Trump said his decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — which the current administration is seeking to return to — was “because of my relations with Israel.”

And he claimed that had he not done so, “I think Israel would have been destroyed maybe by now.”

“Now Biden is going back to the deal because he has no clue. The Israelis fought this deal and Obama wouldn’t listen to them. The decision to back out of the deal was because of my relations with Israel — not with Bibi. Those were my feelings towards Israel.”

“Bibi did not want to make peace,” Trump also said. “Never did.”

Trump also said he had saved Netanyahu in Israel’s April 2019 election by recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. That election was the first of four inconclusive national polls in two years of political chaos that lasted until Netanyahu was removed from power by the current government.

“Take the Golan for example,” said Trump. “That was a big deal. People say that was a $10 billion gift. I did it right before the election, which helped him a lot… he would have lost the election if it wasn’t for me. So he tied. He went up a lot after I did it. He went up 10 points or 15 points after I did Golan Heights.”

Trump’s statements in the interview back up reporting by US journalist Michael Wolff, who wrote in his account of Trump’s presidency that he considered Netanyahu’s message to Biden the “ultimate betrayal.”

Trump raged to aides that Netanyahu congratulated Biden “before the ink was dry.” Wolff’s book, “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” was published in July.

Trump refused to concede defeat, making unsubstantiated allegations of serious fraud and vowing to take his case to the courts, actions that ultimately encouraged his followers to storm the US Capitol building in an attempt to stop the certification of Biden’s election victory.

Trump’s apparent anger came despite Netanyahu being one of the last major world leaders to congratulate Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

After a conspicuously long hiatus, Netanyahu issued a statement on his personal Twitter account on November 8 2020 at 7 a.m. in Israel (midnight EST), more than 12 hours after US media networks called the presidency for Biden.

Analysts pointed out that in his tweets and subsequent remarks to the cabinet, Netanyahu did not address Biden as “president-elect” and did not explicitly state that the former vice president and Delaware senator had won the elections.

In a second tweet, he thanked Trump “for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights.”

Netanyahu had built a close relationship with Trump and his administration, which reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and removing opposition to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s close ties with Trump and Republicans in his corner had led to concerns of a loss of bipartisan support for Israel in Washington.

The fact that Netanyahu took 12 hours after all major American networks projected that Biden had beaten Trump — and long after most world leaders had done so — was a source of concern for some.

Yair Lapid, the opposition leader at the time and now the foreign minister, was the first Israeli politician to congratulate Biden. He said then that it was “cowardly and shameful” that the country’s top leadership remained silent, and “hurts Israeli interests.”

Since ousting Netanyahu, Lapid and his coalition partner Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have made restoring bipartisan support in the US a key diplomatic goal.

Trump still wields major influence on the Republican party despite his election loss. Asked if he may try to run again in 2024, the former president said: “We’ll see, Maybe I will have a second term. We’ll see what happens. I am not making any plans.”

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