(JTA) — After former President Donald Trump used an expletive to denigrate Benjamin Netanyahu, formerly one of his closest allies, Netanyahu defended himself in response.
“I highly appreciate President Trump’s big contribution to Israel and its security. I also appreciate the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and the U.S. and therefore it was important for me to congratulate the incoming President,” Netanyahu said, according to Barak Ravid, a reporter for Axios to whom Trump made his initial comments about the former Israeli prime minister.
According to the interview with Ravid, which will be published in full Monday in conjunction with the publication of his new book about the Abraham Accords, Trump was offended when Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden for winning the 2020 presidential election. Trump claimed that Netanyahu was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Biden on winning the presidency, though Netanyahu actually waited more than 12 hours after the election was called to congratulate Biden.
“I haven’t spoken to him since,” Trump said of Netanyahu in his interview with Ravid. “F— him.”
In another interview with Ravid in July, Trump suggested that Netanyahu’s congratulatory video call to Biden “hurt him badly with the people of Israel.” Netanyahu is currently the head of the opposition in the Israeli Knesset.
“As you know, I’m very popular in Israel. I think it hurt him very badly,” Trump said.
More excerpts from Ravid’s interviews with Trump were released Saturday by Israel’s Channel 12. In one comment, Trump suggested he would have preferred to work with Benny Gantz, who currently serves as Israel’s defense minister, on a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“I think [he] wanted to make a deal… if he won, I think it would be a lot easier,” Trump said, according to The Times of Israel.
Trump said he found Netanyahu to be less interested in making peace than he had originally hoped.
“Bibi did not want to make a deal,” Trump said of Netanyahu.
He also contrasted his impression of Netanyahu’s interest in making a deal with his impression of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “I thought the Palestinians were impossible, and the Israelis would do anything to make peace and a deal. I found that not to be true,” Trump said.
“I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace,” Trump said in the interview. “I think he just tapped us along…‘No, no, we want to, we want to’…But I think Bibi did not want to make peace. Never did.”