How Trump helped Netanyahu by cursing him - analysis

Former US president Donald Trump cursed Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview, but that is not the greatest impact from what was said.

 US President Donald Trump winks at Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they discuss a Middle East peace plan proposal during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, January 28, 2020.  (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)
US President Donald Trump winks at Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they discuss a Middle East peace plan proposal during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, January 28, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)

When it comes to headlines, it doesn’t get much better than one former head of state saying “Fuck him” about a world leader who was seen as someone he had been particularly close to.

It’s an even juicier headline when the two leaders are Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, who everyone either loves or loves to hate, without much indifference or public opinion in between, in either their own countries or around the world.

But that swear word is not what will have the greatest impact from what Trump said about Netanyahu in two interviews with Walla News diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid.

For a change, it is the substance and not the bluster that matters with what Trump said. In the interviews,Trump repeatedly expressed his suspicion that Netanyahu was not interested in coming to a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“Bibi did not want to make a deal,” said Trump. “Even most recently when we came up with the maps and everything he said, ‘This is good, this is good.’ Everything was always great but he did not want to make a deal. I thought the [Palestinians] were impossible and the Israelis would do everything to make peace and a deal. I found that not to be true.... I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace, I think he tapped us along, just tapped, tapped, tapped.... Bibi did not want to make peace, never did.”

 US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to deliver joint remarks on a Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, January 28, 2020.  (credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS) US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to deliver joint remarks on a Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, January 28, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS)

Those were the words that made waves in Monday’s closed-door Likud faction meeting, and presumably among his grassroots supporters on the Right as well.

Likud faction chairman Yariv Levin, who was involved in crafting the Abraham Accords, praised Netanyahu for holding his ground in the meeting.

“There were things Netanyahu stood up for and was not ready to compromise on at any price,” Levin said. “His firm ‘no’ to a Palestinian state was one example, as we heard in the recordings of Trump.”

Other former Likud ministers said at the meeting that Trump helped Netanyahu regain the support of people in his base on the Right who doubted his loyalty to the Land of Israel and his opposition to a Palestinian state.

“He was right to congratulate Biden even after everything Trump gave us,” a former Likud minister said. “He proved he does what is right, even if he owes someone something.”

It goes further than that. Likudniks appreciate that Netanyahu knows how to deceive even the leader of the free world in order to help Israel. If Trump joined Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among presidents who felt tricked by Netanyahu, that will only enhance his support, not decrease it.

It is even better for Netanyahu that Likudniks see how Trump worked with him and helped Israel when he was in office and only complained about him after he left.

Trump’s main problem with Netanyahu that he expressed in the interviews was that Netanyahu was not loyal to him, even after he helped him out politically. He noted that he purposely announced his recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights during an Israeli election campaign. And there were other gifts ahead of other Israeli elections.

Netanyahu did not return the favor. When Trump asked him when cameras were rolling to say that “Sleepy Joe” could not have come up with the Abraham Accords, Netanyahu didn’t bite. When Trump was protesting the election results, Netanyahu still congratulated Biden.

Perhaps Trump thought he was getting revenge against Netanyahu by cursing him and telling Israelis that he had not spoken to him in nearly a year. But Trump actually helped Netanyahu out politically one last time.