Former US president Donald Trump has launched another verbal attack on his one-time close ally Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the ex-Israeli prime minister did not want to make peace with the Palestinians.
He made the remarks in a series of interviews with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid earlier this year for an upcoming book, whose excerpts were released on Saturday.
In the taped comments broadcast by Israel’s Channel 12, Trump claimed that when he came into office, he had asked Netanyahu for overtures toward the Palestinians, raising the possibility of a settlement construction freeze in the occupied West Bank, but the Israeli premier often demurred.
“Bibi did not want to make a deal,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace. 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.”
“Now I don’t know if he didn’t want to make it for political reasons, or for other reasons. I wish he would have said he didn’t want to make a deal, instead of…. Because a lot of people devoted a lot of work. But I don’t think Bibi would have ever made a deal. That’s my opinion,” he added.
Meanwhile, the former US president said he believed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “wanted to make a deal more than Netanyahu. And I will be honest, I had a great meeting with him, Abbas, right. I had a great meeting with him. And we spent a lot of time together, talking about many things. And it was almost like a father. I mean, he was so nice, couldn’t have been nicer.”
Trump recalled he then told Netanyahu that “I had a very good meeting with Abbas. We can definitely do a deal. The Israeli leader’s response? ‘Well, let’s think about it. Let’s not move too fast, you know.’ After he started talking, I said, wait a minute, you don’t want to make a deal.”
“And he said, ‘Well, uh, uh, uh.’ And the fact is I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make a deal. I [had] thought the Palestinians were impossible, and the Israelis would do anything to make peace and a deal. I found that not to be true,” he went on to say.
Trump further claimed that he had himself stopped the Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
“I got angry and I stopped it, because that was really going too far. That was going way too far, you know, when [Netanyahu] did the big ‘Let’s build. Let’s take everything and just start building on it.’ We were not happy about that.”
Some other excerpts from Trump’s interviews were released on Friday by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
In his comments, Trump spat an expletive about Netanyahu for being quick to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory in last year’s election.
“He was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since,” the former US president said.
“Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” Trump added. He was “the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with. 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. And it was on tape.”
In response, Netanyahu’s office said on Friday he “really appreciates” Trump’s backing for Tel Aviv, but “he also really appreciates the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and the US, and it was therefore important for him to congratulate the incoming president.”
In a break with the past US policy, Trump recognized occupied al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel and ordered the transfer of the US embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
The former US president also recognized Israel's false claim of sovereignty over the occupied Golan Height during his time in office which marked an unprecedented escalation of Israel's settlement expansion and other aggressive plans.