Former prime minister Ehud Olmert issued a rare defense of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, following recordings of former US president Donald Trump criticizing Netanyahu for congratulating US President Joe Biden on his victory in the 2020 US presidential election.
Trump expressed outrage at Netanyahu for congratulating Biden at a time when he was protesting the results of the race. He revealed in the recordings that he has not been in touch with Netanyahu since then.
“Everyone knows my opinion of Netanyahu,” Olmert said. “I am not fond of him, I don’t appreciate him, I don’t trust him, I don’t believe in his integrity. But Trump’s interview is a living example of a man for whom everything is personal. Everything is judged according to his own personal interests.”
Olmert said the fact that Netanyahu congratulated Biden on his election victory shows that he acted as Israelis should expect their prime minister to act – to congratulate the duly elected American president. Olmert noted that Netanyahu hesitated in releasing his congratulatory video and waited until he believed it became an embarrassment that the leader of Israel had not congratulated the president-elect of the US.
“Trump said that the fact that Netanyahu congratulated Biden is a betrayal of the special relationship between Israel and the US,” Olmert said. “That is crazy and beyond understanding. He is a pathetic man.”
Olmert’s comments were made during the opening session of the 13th annual Leadership Dialogue on Israel-UK-Australia Relations, an initiative of the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue, founded by Jewish philanthropist and businessman Albert Dadon. The opening session was a former prime minister’s roundtable discussion that included Olmert and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.
Asked about Trump’s criticism of Netanyahu at a meeting of Yisrael Beytenu’s faction, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said, “The former president is aware that Bibi only knows how to use people, not befriend them.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who like Olmert is normally critical of Netanyahu, told reporters at his Yesh Atid faction meeting on Monday that “Netanyahu was right to congratulate president-elect Biden.
In the interview with Walla News diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, Trump repeatedly spoke of what he described as his sense of betrayal by Netanyahu over the congratulatory message to Biden after Trump’s generous policies to Israel, which he claimed also benefited Netanyahu politically.
“Nobody did more for Bibi and Israel than I did,” said Trump. “Also money. We gave a lot of money, I gave troops, everything we did,” although it is unclear what was his reference to providing Israel with troops.
“Golan Heights was a big deal,” said Trump. “People say that was a $10 billion gift. He would have lost the election if it wasn’t for me. He was tied and then he went up a lot after I did Golan Heights.”
Answering a question about the video message to Biden, Trump said “I haven’t spoken with him since [he congratulated Joe Biden]. F**k him.”
Trump accused Netanyahu of deceiving him and his administration about his sincerity to make a peace deal with the Palestinians.
In response to Trump’s comments, Netanyahu insisted in a statement that he had great appreciation for Trump.