Here is the unauthorized transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s discussion with the President:
Aide: “The President is calling.”
Bb: (muttering) “He took his sweet time calling America’s most important ally…”
The President: “Bibi, you’re the greatest, how ya doing?”
Bb: “Is this the President?”
45: “Of course. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved .
Bb: “Ahem, how are things in Florida?”
45: “I’ve been in two elections. I won them both and the second one, I won much bigger than the first….
“The media is the biggest problem we have as far as I’m concerned, single biggest problem, the fake news and the big tech.”
BB: “What about Iran? That’s our biggest problem!”
45: “Their GDP went down 27%. They’ve gone from a rich country to a poor country in a period of three years. I’d love to get them back on track. They just can’t have nuclear weapons. That’s all. Nuclear weapons, and it’s always, “Death to Israel.” That’s all they shout is “Death to Israel.” So they can’t have nuclear weapons, but they can have what they want.
“They should be a great nation. They’re great people. I know so many Iranians. I have a lot of Iranian friends, and should be a great nation….”
BB “We appreciate what you have done enormously… [W]hen I spoke in the American Congress, I didn’t say I was opposed to any deal. I said I was opposed to that deal because that deal lifted all sorts of restrictions from Iran but did not … require any change of behavior from Iran. Iran essentially increased its aggression after the deal, rather than reduce it. [It yielded:] Ballistic missiles, enrichment of uranium for atomic bombs, with all sorts of terrorism in the region…. [if] a different deal is offered, it would be welcome….
“I think if you’re soft on Iran, you’re not going to get peace with Iran. If you’re strong against Iran and prevent it, as you had just said, from achieving nuclear weapons, then I think that they might come around to a better deal. A better deal, a real deal….”
Aide: “Mr. Prime Minster, the White House is calling, President Biden is on the line.” (while connecting, the aide asks): “Did the EX -President’s call embarrass you?”
BB: “It’s very hard to embarrass me, and I very much appreciated President Trump’s support.”
This Purim prank quotes in italics from Donald Trump’s infamous January 6 speech – and from three recent Trump-Netanyahu interactions. It’s fitting to evoke the star-crossed lovebird’s lament – “how can someone so wrong be so right” — this Purim week of masks and ambiguities.
It should not be so difficult to abhor Donald Trump’s anti-democratic demagoguery yet applaud his toughness toward Iran – just as it should be easy to detest Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the bigoted anti-Arab Ben-Gvir-Right while praising Bibi’s resistance to the Mullahs. Yet so many people’s justifiable fury at these two politicians blinds them to the dangers Iran poses – and the blindspots in Barack Obama’s Iran deal.
Too many Democrats seem drunk on anti-Trumpism. Last week, Biden wisely grumbled: “I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump, I don’t want to talk about him anymore… In the next four years I want to make sure all the news is the American people.”
Similarly, ethical Jews should denounce Donald Trump, despite his genuinely pro-Israel stance. But many are drunk on pro-Israelism.
America’s all-or-nothing politics is depressing: Both parties’ self-righteousness, their hostility to nuance, poisoned some Trump-haters toward Israel, just as the love of Trump jaundiced others against democracy, truth, and the Constitution. Americans should remember that while politicians seek all your vote, they usually deserve only some of your support – and little of your trust. Patriotic voters should cultivate healthy skepticism regarding politicians we endorse – learning to learn from those we dislike.
By contrast, as Israel wobbles toward its March 23 re-re-re-re-election, Bibi commands such loyalty – unlike most rivals. Many anti-Bibers waver between Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennet. Israel’s political bog triggers a gnawing hunger for something more — not the pounding headache American politics brings.
As we celebrate this Purim, let’s continue distinguishing right from wrong – resisting politicians who say “whatever I do is right, because the opposition is so wrong.” But let’s also remember “nahafochu ” – inside-outing — seeing what the other side sees, understanding that “I can dislike Trump or Bibi but like their dislike of Iran’s Mullahs and America’s Iran deal.”
Parties offer packaged deals; modern partisans insist on packaged zeal, 1000% buy-in- or you’re evil. Trumpians and Bibistas lie – Wokeians and Meretzians deny. Hard-Right “Fake-triots” reject truth, calling it fake news; Hard-Right Identity Marxists bury inconvenient facts, telling questioning allies: your (legitimate) challenges “are unfortunate” or “unhelpful.” In rejecting life’s messiness and demanding total loyalty, both extremes are Bolshevik.
Jews’ appreciation of machloket, Americans’ protection of Free Speech, reflect a more moderate politics, a more complex worldview. While a stick-figure Purim pits good guys against bad guy; more sophisticated readings see the complexity behind the masks. Even if Haman remains Hamas-like, Ahasuerus is a fool who saves us, Mordechai and Esther prevaricate and manipulate for the greater good.
Ad Lo Yada – blurring distinctions– then, inspires a deeper wisdom. When you look behind the mask, when you read the whole megillah, life isn’t as simple as the Purim Parade seems– and that’s an insight worth toasting, L’Chaim.
Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University,and the author of nine books on American History, his book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.
Copyright © 2021 Prof Gil Troy, All rights reserved.
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