During his four years in office Donald Trump was a full-throated supporter of Israel and its former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Now that he’s out of office … not so much. “I haven’t spoken to him since,” Trump said of his relationship to Netanyahu, Axios reported on Friday. “Fuck him.”
The animosity is derived from the fact that Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on his victory last November despite Trump’s push to convince America the election was rigged. “The first person that congratulated [Biden] was Bibi Netanyahu, the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with,” Trump told Barak Ravid in April. “Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake.”
An allied nation congratulating America’s president-elect on their victory is about as routine as it gets when it comes to foreign policy. Netanyahu, then still in office, knew he might have to work with Biden for at least four years, and it’s common sense to start things off with a little good will. Trump apparently expected the former Israeli head of state to turn on the United States completely because he lost the election.
Trump felt especially betrayed because Netanyahu congratulated Biden on tape. “I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” Trump said. “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.”
The video was as tame as it gets, and even included a stretch where Netanyahu praised and thanked Trump.
Trump claimed Netanyahu was “earlier than most” in congratulating Biden, despite the congratulations coming over 12 hours after the election was called. “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,” Trump said. “And guess what, now they’re going to do it again.”
The tension between Trump and Netanyahu reportedly runs deeper than the latter’s nod to Biden, which Axios describes as “the final straw.” Trump was starting to sour on him toward the end of his time in office, in part because he believed Netanyahu was using him to gain leverage over Iran.
Still, Netanyahu’s kind words to Biden seem to carry more weight with Trump than any political maneuvering. When Ravid spoke to Trump again in July, after Netanyahu had been ousted from office, Trump cited the congratulations video as a reason Netanyahu was no longer in power. “That hurt him badly with the people of Israel,” he said. “As you know, I’m very popular in Israel. I think it hurt him very badly.”