Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in New York, September 18, 2017

At The U.N., Netanyahu Emerges As Trump’s Biggest Fan

A day of lengthy speeches addressing a global audience concluded with few signs of international cooperation, with one glaring exception—the increasingly profound friendship and mutual admiration between the leaders of the United States and Israel.

The Donald Trump-Benjamin Netanyahu love story played out in statements made and in issues ignored during the speeches both leaders delivered Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

For Trump, it was all about what he mentioned and what he chose to avoid.

Providing real-life proof to Netanyahu’s claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer the issue defining the Middle East, Trump managed to go through a 45-minute speech covering a gamut of global hotspots without mentioning the Palestinian issue in a word—not even the obligatory nod to the need for peace and self-determination.

An Israeli official accompanying Netanyahu to New York said this was no accidental omission. Trump, the official argued, accepts the Israeli view that there is no real prospect for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and so there’s no real need to address Palestinian strife.

The issues that Trump did chose to focus on were perhaps even more pleasing to the Israelis.

“The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.  Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it—believe me,” Trump said in his speech, echoing a long-standing position articulated by Netanyahu during the 2015 debate over the nuclear accord.

Trump did not deliver the promise Netanyahu would like to see, to “fix or nix” the nuclear deal, but he came as close to it as possible, warning that the U.S. will not abide by a deal that gives Iran cover for developing a nuclear program.

Netanyahu, who sat in the audience listening to Trump, showed his gratitude several hours later, when his turn came to take the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen, here at the U.N., we must also speak the truth about Iran, as President Trump did so powerfully this morning,” Netanyahu said, adding that in all his years following United Nations speeches, “none were bolder, none more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today.”

Netanyahu reminisced on Trump’s visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, stating that “when the President touched those ancient stones, he touched our hearts forever.” And after gushing over Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s support for Israel in the international body, Netanyahu also added that people in Israel “appreciate President Trump’s leadership, his commitment to stand by Israel’s side, his commitment to advance a peaceful future for all.”

Netanyahu, who unlike Trump could not ignore the Palestinian issue altogether, touched it with one quick mention, stating that “Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.”

The Trump-Netanyahu love fest will come to its first test in mid-October, when the President delivers to Congress his formal notification regarding Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Netanyahu would like to see Trump rescind or amend the agreement, but most of Trump’s top military and diplomatic advisers are advocating against the move.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

Author

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman

Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at guttman@forward.com, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman

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