It is not often that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets called out so emphatically and publicly on one of his lies, especially by a fellow prevaricator he calls a great personal friend and supporter of Israel, Donald Trump.
Trump, himself a congenital liar who averaged nearly six false or misleading claims a day during his first year, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, wasted no time or tact in calling out Netanyahu on his latest whopper.
A White House spokesman publicly said Bibi was lying (he used a more polite but equivalent word) when the prime minister told a Likud meeting “I have been talking to the Americans…for some time” “on the subject of applying sovereignty” to West Bank settlements. That would be “akin” to annexation, the Jerusalem Post noted.
That is “false,” said Josh Raffel, a White House Spokesman. “The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” he stated. “We warn against such a move because it would destroy any international effort to save the peace process,” he added.
If that putdown wasn’t enough Trump had two more zingers for his pal Bibi, questioning his commitment to peace with the Palestinians and warning him about settlement expansion.
“I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace,” Trump said, expressing a similar thought about the Palestinians.
That is a widely held view among many friends of Israel, right and left, who feel Netanyahu’s peace rhetoric is insincere but a defense mechanism to avoid being blamed for the high likelihood any Trump peace plan will fail.
On the prime minister’s first White House visit Trump publicly cautioned him to restrain his settlement program. The message apparently didn’t get through because Trump repeated it again this week. Settlements “always have complicated making peace,” he said, and warned “Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”
In a clumsy attempt at recovery from the unexpected Trump statement, a Netanyahu aide tried to backtrack. The prime minister wasn’t really proposing annexation, he was merely updating the Americans on various proposals before the Knesset, said the aide. It sounded like a Trump tweet: “just saying.”