Former President Donald Trump said he has cut ties with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because the Israeli leader congratulated President Biden after his election victory.
Trump has accused his former close ally of disloyalty after Netanyahu called to congratulate Biden earlier than other Trump allies like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
"He was very early — like, earlier than most," Trump told Israeli journalist Barak Ravid in an interview published Friday by Axios. "I haven't spoken to him since. Fuck him."
Ravid, who interviewed Trump twice for his upcoming book, wrote that Trump "repeatedly criticized" Netanyahu, who was notably close to the twice-impeached former president and even closer with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, a longtime Netanyahu family friend. The only real point of disagreement between the two deposed leaders appears to be that Netanyahu accepted the results of the election while Trump continues to push false claims of fraud 13 months later and has begun laying the groundwork to potentially overturn future elections.
"The first person that congratulated [Biden] was Bibi Netanyahu, the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with. ... Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake," Trump claimed. In fact, Netanyahu was not the first leader to call Biden and did not congratulate him for more than 12 hours after the election was called. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized Netanyahu for the delay at the time, calling it "cowardly and shameful."
Trump argued that he had helped Netanyahu survive politically amid corruption charges but is now angry that Netanyahu did not reciprocate in kind. He was particularly incensed about a video Netanyahu released congratulating Biden as president-elect.
"I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi. 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," Trump said, adding that Putin and Bolsonaro held off because "they felt the election was rigged."
Trump also said he had begun to sour on Netanyahu before the election, concluding that "Netanyahu didn't really want peace with the Palestinians and was using [Trump] on Iran," according to Ravid. But after that detour, Trump launched into another rant about Netanyahu congratulating Biden.
"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 continued. "And guess what, now they're going to do it again."
Trump took credit for helping Netanyahu survive politically, citing his decisions to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and recognize the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel.
The Golan Heights decision came "right before the [Israeli] election" in 2019, when Netanyahu was trailing in the polls, Trump said. "He would have lost the election if it wasn't for me."
Although Netanyahu survived that election, it produced no clear winner and a new government coalition under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett finally ousted him after another election earlier this year. He still faces criminal charges of corruption, bribery and fraud.
Trump blamed Netanyahu's defeat, somewhat implausibly, on his decision to congratulate Biden.
"I can tell you that people were very angry with him when he was the first one to congratulate Biden," Trump told Ravid. "The video was almost like he's begging for love. And I said, 'My, my how things change.' So, you know, I was disappointed. That hurt him badly with the people of Israel. As you know, I'm very popular in Israel. I think it hurt him very badly."
In another excerpt published by the Israeli news outlet Ynet, Trump even took credit for the fact that Israel still exists.
"I'll tell you what — had I not come along I think Israel was going to be destroyed. Okay. You want to know the truth? I think Israel would have been destroyed maybe by now," Trump declared. (There is no realistic scenario under which that could have occurred.)
Journalist Michael Wolff previously reported that Netanyahu drew the brunt of Trump's fury after his election loss. "It was startling to aides, however much they were anticipating an eruption, that Trump's wrath fell on Bibi Netanyahu," Wolff wrote in his book "Landslide."
"As in all Trump reactions, a variety of grievances welled up here," Wolff wrote. "There was his belief that he had singularly done more for Israel than any American president — and that therefore he was owed. And now sold out."
Trump ranted to aides, Wolff added, that Netanyahu congratulating Biden was the "ultimate betrayal."