Mondoweiss / December 17, 2021
Trump: “I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace. I think he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap, you know?”
I’d imagine that most people understand there is a sizable gap between the image of U.S. politics we are presented and how things actually work in Washington. Despite all his faults this disconnect was occasionally bridged by Donald Trump, a man who has probably inspired more people to cite that famous ClickHole story than anyone else: “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point.”
These insights have not subsided just because Trump lost the election. Axios‘ Barak Ravid has a new book coming out, Trump’s Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East. This month he’s been publishing some of the book’s revelations at the Axios website.
In April, Trump told Ravid that Netanyahu never actually wanted peace with the Palestinians. Anyone with cursory knowledge of the region knew this but it is refreshing to see someone say it out loud. “I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace,” said Trump. “I think he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap, you know?”
As Ravid points out Trump presented Israel with the most favorable proposal they had seen since the Clinton era, but control of nearly the entire region was simply not enough for the Israeli government. “My whole life is deals,” said Trump. “I’m like one big deal. That’s all I do, so I understand it. And after meeting with Bibi for three minutes … I stopped Bibi in the middle of a sentence. I said, ‘Bibi, you don’t want to make a deal. Do you?’ And he said, ‘Well, uh, uh uh’ — and the fact is, I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make a deal.”
Trump’s customary self-aggrandizing is pretty funny in this case because he went onto torpedo any hope for his deal when his administration declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital and promised to move the embassy there. (“May your house be destroyed,” Mahmoud Abbas said of Trump.) This wasn’t enough for Netanyahu, who used Trump’s plan to push a wider annexation plan in the West Bank. He even unveiled his scheme at a White House ceremony, catching Trump completely off guard. What happens next is a fascinating microcosm of how the “special relationship” works. Here’s Ravid:
- A former senior White House official told me Netanyahu “turned the president into a potted plant with a campaign speech instead of reaching out to the Palestinians.”
- After Netanyahu departed, Trump asked his advisers, “What the hell was that?”
- When Netanyahu announced the annexation plan later that same day, blindsiding the White House, Trump was livid. “I got angry and I stopped it because that was really going too far,” Trump told me in our interview.
Kushner called Friedman into his office and gave him a dressing down, saying this plan was not what the president wanted.
- Kushner then made Friedman cross Pennsylvania Avenue to the Blair House to deliver the bad news to Netanyahu, who was celebrating with his senior advisers.
- Netanyahu tried to fight it, but within 24 hours, both he and Friedman were walking back everything they had said on annexation. Netanyahu blamed “miscommunication.”
Ravid also has some amazing information about how Netanyahu almost killed the Abraham Accords as a result of all this. He apparently wanted three Arab countries, not just the UAE, on board in exchange for withdrawing his annexation plans. Jared Kushner delivered this message to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer: “Tell Ron that one country is all he’s going to get, and if he doesn’t want it, he can go f**k himself.”
“Then, on Aug. 12, Netanyahu got cold feet,” Ravid explains. “He was considering calling new elections due to a crisis over the budget. With so much up in the air, Dermer told Berkowitz, Netanyahu wasn’t going to sign. Several shouted conversations between Washington and Jerusalem ensued. Friedman, who was already in D.C. for the announcement, was particularly insistent that the deal was done and the Israelis no longer had a choice.”
“Netanyahu eventually backed down.”
Again, pretty instructive stuff when it comes to U.S./Israel.
Trump also told Ravid that Netanyahu “made a terrible mistake” by congratulating Biden after his victory and not embracing right-wing conspiracy theories about the election. “I haven’t spoken to him since,” said Trump. “F**k him.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss