WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a right-wing radio personality that he appreciates US President Donald Trump’s capacity to “cut through” what he indirectly called bullshit, in his sole televised interview recorded while visiting the United States last week.
Netanyahu has consistently trumpeted his close relationship with the US president, whom he met with last week in Washington, highlighting Trump’s willingness to come through on a number of policy shifts, such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and a seemingly coordinated stance toward Iran. On Wednesday, he said the two had never had a disagreement.
“There’s a certain chemistry,” Netanyahu told pro-Trump radio host Mark Levin, in an interview aired Sunday on Fox News. “The president likes to cut through, I don’t want to call it noise, but you know, there are two initials in English — he just cuts right through it. It’s refreshing. When we talk about serious things, he gets right to the point.”
Asked to describe his relationship with Trump, which Levin said seemed “very unique, very personal,” the Israeli premier said he had “a direct and very positive relationship from the get-go” with the controversial and incendiary American president.
The bilateral meeting between Netanyahu and Trump Monday at the White House was their fifth bilateral summit since the US president took office in January of 2017.
In his taped interview with Levin, Netanyahu also said he remembered Trump from when he was Israel’s ambassador to the UN in the 1980s while Trump was a prominent real estate mogul in Manhattan. “We occasionally bumped in the same circles,” he said.
Throughout his US tour, Netanyahu repeatedly thanked Trump for his decision last year to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. He also praised Trump’s ultimatum on the Iran nuclear deal — saying either Congress and America’s European allies would amend the accord or he would walk away from it.
Describing the top three threats Israel faces as “Iran, Iran, Iran,” the prime minister told Levin, “This sponsor of global terrorism is not only trying to develop a land empire, but they also want to develop nuclear weapons. And I think that needs to be stopped.”
“I see eye-to-eye with President Trump on that. I think he’s done a major change in American policy to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” he said.
Netanyahu’s interview with the famously conservative Levin — which aired Sunday night on Fox News for his one-hour weekly segment “Life, Liberty & Levin” — focused heavily on Israel’s economy and the Israeli premier’s belief in free market principles and other economic concepts associated with Republican Party orthodoxy and American conservatism.
The radio host also asked Netanyahu about the criminal probes against him. In recent weeks, Levin has said that “radical leftists in Israel are leading the movement to oust” the prime minister.
“I am a bit confounded and I think the American people are confounded,” Levin said, sneering at a recent controversy in which a judge and prosecutor were caught texting each other before a hearing in a case linked to Netanyahu, and a recent deal in which one of the prime minister’s former aides turned state’s witness against him.
“I’d rather think about whether I want to comment about this, but I’d say that you are pretty perceptive,” responded a hesitant Netanyahu, before launching into a defense of his time in office.
“The support I’ve received time and time again — I’ve been elected prime minister four times — that’s not an obvious thing,” Netanyahu said.
“They say today I’ve never been stronger in public opinion. Why is that? It’s because I think the citizens do understand that we work to make sure, I work to make sure, that the country is safe. That’s my first job, to protect the State of Israel. And second that the country is prosperous and we’ve turned Israel into a tremendous engine of innovation, it’s a free-market economy in technology and it’s become a world leader in so many areas and people recognize that,” said Netanyahu.