Israel’s former UN envoy tweets frustration and wrong phone number for PM, who forged close ties with Donald Trump
Benjamin Netanyahu fostered a warm relationship with Donald Trump. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock
The Guardian –Julian Borger in Washington
It has been three weeks since Joe Biden’s inauguration and Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to receive a call from the White House. The Israeli prime minister has let it be known he is not happy but he is waiting by the phone.
Danny Danon, the head of World Likud, the global arm of Netanyahu’s party, tweeted a message to Biden on Wednesday, pointedly listing all the countries whose leaders have recently been graced by a call from the Oval Office.
“Might it now be time to call the leader of #Israel, the closest ally of the #US?” asked Danon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the UN until last year. For good measure he added: “The PM’s number is: 972-2-6705555.”
That number is listed on the website of Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, but calls are answered by a recorded message, saying that it is out of service. “Please check the number and dial again,” the message says.
Netanyahu has said he expects to receive a call from Biden soon.
“He is making calls to world leaders according to the order he sees fit. He has not reached the Middle East yet,” the prime minister said on Monday. “The Israel-US alliance is strong and so is our friendship of almost 40 years, though we may not agree on everything.”
Netanyahu forged a close bond with Donald Trump, making common cause in their hostility to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Trump backed Netanyahu’s settlement-building policies in the West Bank and Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. He helped broker Israel’s diplomatic normalisation deals with the Gulf monarchies.
Netanyahu in return flattered the former US president, naming a planned Golan Heights settlement Trump Heights and giving him enthusiastic backing on the US political stage.
Netanyahu kept a photo of himself with Trump as the banner picture on his official Twitter account as late as 11 January, five days after the insurrection by Trump supporters at the Capitol – a rampage for which the former president is on trial in the Senate.
“Memo to all interested parties,” David Aaron Miller, a former state department Middle East analyst now at the Carnegie Endowment, replied to Danon’s tweet. “A call will come. But a clear message is being sent. Netanyahu was Trump’s 3rd call. To quote Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Yossi Melman wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper: “Biden and his aides aim to tell Netanyahu: You’re nothing special, you’re not an only child … The personal connection and chemistry you had with Donald Trump not only fail to advance your standing in Washington, they’re an obstacle.”