BOCA RATON, FLORIDA – The biggest news story in Israel, by far, in the last few days has been the unprecedented attack by former U.S. President Donald J. Trump on former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
Trump is furious at Netanyahu for moving so quickly to congratulate Joe Biden on winning the 2020 election – within 12 hours of the polls closing – when there was so much doubt and white-hot controversy surrounding the results.
This is according to a new book published only in Hebrew by one of Israel’s premier political reporters, Barak Ravid.
Incensed by what he views as a lack of loyalty, Trump can be heard on the audio tape of the interview saying of Netanyahu, “F--- him.”
The book reports that Trump and Netanyahu have not spoken since the U.S. elections.
This was the lead story on ALL ISRAEL NEWS on Friday.
Indeed, it was the lead story on all Israeli media outlets.
It has made some news in the U.S., though not as much as I would have expected.
RADIO SILENCE FROM JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS
So far, however, I haven’t seen evidence that any major pro-Israel leader in the American Jewish community or in the American Evangelical community has commented yet on the dust up, the reasons that Trump has turned on Netanyahu or the vulgar language that the former president used in the interview.
Haaretz, a prominent Israeli newspaper, even published a story this morning headlined, “Pro-Israel Evangelicals Stay Silent on Trump's 'F--- Bibi' Comment – From prominent organizations to leading pastors, Evangelical supporters of Israel have not commented on Trump's incredible attack on Netanyahu, signaling the movement's confusion as one of its heroes turns on another.”
“The only exception was Israel-based evangelical author Joel Rosenberg,” the newspaper noted, “who said in an interview to the pro-Trump network, Newsmax, that the former president’s quotes are ‘stunning.’”
“He added that the ‘level of bitterness, given how close Trump and Netanyahu have been politically, is striking.’”
“Apart from Rosenberg (who was recently a guest on the Haaretz Weekly Podcast to discuss his new book, Enemies and Allies), there has been no public reference from any other prominent evangelical public figure as of Sunday morning, Israel time – more than 48 hours after Trump’s comments were first published.”
Below you’ll find a transcript of my Newsmax interview, and we have embedded the video so you can watch it for yourself.
WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
First, however, let’s go further.
Let’s begin with the question of why no Evangelical leaders have yet to comment.
Actually, I’m not certain how many of them have even seen – much less processed – the news. While the story made huge headlines in Israel, there have been other big stories here in the U.S., including the cataclysmic tornadoes that have left some of the worst devastation in American history.
It’s also the weekend – lots of Christmas parties, today is church, lots of kids’ activities, and many Evangelicals don’t focus as much on the news over the weekend.
But I also think there is more to it.
This is an unprecedented verbal attack by a former American president on a former Israeli prime minister.
We’ve literally never seen anything like it.
As I told Newsmax, Trump and Netanyahu were the closest political allies I can think of on the planet.
They did so much good with and for each other.
And I think Evangelical leaders are so stunned that they are not yet certain if they want to react, or how.
To be clear: I actually get Trump’s frustration – even anger – at Bibi.
Netanyahu did not need to rush to embrace Biden so quickly.
Trump was Bibi’s closest and most trusted ally.
What’s more, they were friends – they enjoyed each other’s company, saw the world similarly, were eager to stand with each other and help each other through thick and thin.
Or so it seemed.
So, I can totally understand why Trump would think Bibi should have stayed quiet for awhile longer.
Bibi was under growing pressure in the Israeli media to embrace Biden quickly.
But so what?
Bibi could have taken time to let the situation become clearer, and let other world leaders embrace Biden first.
Loyalty is important in politics, and Bibi could have kept his powder dry longer.
Now for President Trump: I have to say that I’m really disappointed with his use of such vulgar language.
Is he a New Yorker? Sure.
Is that how many New Yorkers talk? Sure.
But so what?
Trump was on the record, with an Israeli reporter, talking about a long-time friend and ally.
Why use the “F” word?
Why not express disappointment with Bibi without dropping the F-bomb, without signaling that the relationship is so terribly broken, and possibly over forever?
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Trump would use such language against an enemy.
But why use it against a friend?
As a Christian, I don’t use that word at all.
But you can be certain that if Biden, or Barack Obama, or Ilhan Omar, or any other Democrat had used such vile language to attack an Israeli leader, I would have called them out and said it’s wrong.
Because it is.
So, I’m saying it here about a Republican.
Trump was wrong to use such language against Netanyahu.
He wasn’t being anti-Israel.
He wasn’t being anti-Semitic.
He was simply angry.
But he was also wrong.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Unfortunately, for all his strengths, Bibi has a bad habit of infuriating friends, staff and political partners.
He has a nasty habit of turning allies into enemies.
Why do you think Naftali Bennett – Bibi’s one-time chief of staff – is now the prime minister, and Bibi is in the opposition?
And the list is far longer than just Bennett.
Think Benny Gantz, and Yair Lapid, and Avigdor Liberman, and Gideon Sa’ar, just to name a few.
That said, I hope that Netanyahu will call Trump and the two will reconcile.
These men did great things together.
They forged historic achievements together.
Achievements that will be remembered for generations.
And who knows, they may both be back in power one day, and need each other again.
TRANSCRIPT OF THE NEWSMAX INTERVIEW
ANCHOR JOHN BACHMANN: Former President Donald Trump is lashing out at Benjamin Netanyahu for accepting Joe Biden's victory in last year's election….Trump accused the former Israeli leader of disloyalty, saying he had helped Netanyahu in his own elections by reversing decades of U.S. policy and supported Israel and also their claims for the territory [of] the Golan Heights. Now, Netanyahu has responded to President Trump's comments, saying, “I highly appreciate President Trump's big contribution to Israel and its security. I also appreciate the importance of the strong alliance between our two countries, and therefore it was important for me to congratulate the incoming president.”
Let's talk about a little bit of Middle Eastern diplomacy in the Middle East. Expert and evangelical Joel Rosenberg is the author of the book, "Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving and Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East". And it is turbulent, indeed, Joel -- great to see again.
JOEL C. ROSENBERG: It's great to see you, John. Never a dull moment in my part of the world. I'm glad to be in Florida, in Boca, at your headquarters today. But, wow, what is going on between Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu? Wow.
BACHMANN: So, this [interview] was back in April [when] President Trump was saying these comments. It was recently just published, though – but you can kind of, maybe, understand why he [Trump] might be a little frustrated at Benjamin Netanyahu, and maybe wondering why Netanyahu isn’t more frustrated himself, given what we've seen with these nuclear talks going on in the Biden administration.
ROSENBERG: Well, let's start off, John, as you said, with my book, Enemies and Allies. These are two allies – President Trump and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are the two closest political allies I can think of on the planet.
And as we're reporting on ALL ISRAEL NEWS – but it's based on wonderful reporting, really insightful reporting by a top Israeli political journalist, Barak Ravid – former President Trump said, on the record, “F--- Bibi.” I don’t want to say the words. He reports that Netanyahu was being trashed with vulgarity by Trump.
That level of bitterness by Trump against Netanyahu, given how close they've been politically, is really striking. And it's true that Trump and Netanyahu got an awful lot done, and I think Trump thought, “Well, why within 12 hours, when the election was not really settled yet – there was some dispute – why did Bibi go so fast to embrace Biden?”
That's between them. But for a break like that to be so open, that’s stunning.
BACHMANN: It is stunning. There was real chemistry between the two men. President Trump has been known to say some, let's just say, bombastic things in the past. And maybe this is just his way of expressing himself. I'm sure these two men could come together and shake hands, perhaps, after the fact. But we'll leave it there for now because neither one of them are actually in power.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.