Starting and ending on the wrong foot – analysis

Written by on November 8, 2020

The fact that Netanyahu waited more than twelve hours to congratulate Biden made news around the world and will probably not win him friends in Biden’s circle.

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look at each other as they deliver joint statements during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016 (photo credit: DEBBIE HILL/REUTERS)

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look at each other as they deliver joint statements during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016

(photo credit: DEBBIE HILL/REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself between a rock and a hard place when it came to congratulating US President-elect Joe Biden on his victory over Netanyahu’s close ally, outgoing-President Donald Trump.

On the one hand, Netanyahu needs to find favor with Biden, who, barring a surprising successful legal challenge, will enter the White House in late January. On the other hand, Trump is still president until then, and Netanyahu cannot afford to get on his bad side.

With all the efforts to please both Biden and Trump, it appeared on Sunday that Netanyahu ended up upsetting both sides.

Netanyahu could have joined Canada’s Justin Trudeau among the first world leaders to congratulate Biden immediately after he was declared the victor on Saturday at around 6:30 p.m. Israel time. That was what opposition leader Yair Lapid did.



But that would have been a slap on the face to Trump. So, instead, Netanyahu coordinated with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who coordinated with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, to wait with their congratulatory tweets until after Biden’s victory speech.

Sources close to Netanyahu said the prime minister should not be expected to tweet at 4 a.m. But the moment Biden’s speech was done at 3:55 a.m. Israel time on Sunday, Blue and White’s social media coordinator tweeted Gantz’s congratulations. An hour and a half later, Ashkenazi did the same.

Netanyahu did not tweet until after 7 a.m., a minute after President Reuven Rivlin, whose aides had been waiting for Netanyahu and decided to give up, stop waiting, and released his message. The prime minister reportedly intended to wait for Sunday’s cabinet meeting, but published his message when he saw that other Israeli politicians had already tweeted.

Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 8, 2020

The fact that Netanyahu waited more than 12 hours made news around the world and will probably not win him friends in Biden’s circle. His tweet came after leaders of countries across the globe that are not known for being close US allies like Israel.

The wording of the message that did not call Biden president-elect or mention that he won the election will also undoubtedly not go unnoticed. When Trump won four years ago, Netanyahu called him president-elect, and his message was more timely. A video message Netanyahu released later devoted 43 words to Biden, then 52 to Trump.

Netanyahu also did not end up pleasing Trump or his supporters, who do not believe the race is over. Trump backers expressed outrage at Netanyahu on social media for not waiting for official results and called him ungrateful.

Netanyahu also did not end up pleasing Trump or his supporters, who do not believe the race is over. Trump’s backers expressed outrage at Netanyahu on social media for not waiting for official results and called him ungrateful.

Likud MKs were told to balance any congratulations for Biden with praise of Trump. The only Likud MK to congratulate Biden on Saturday night was Nir Barkat, who oddly tweeted only in Hebrew, and waited until Sunday to post a video in English.

The most controversial message came from former Likud minister Ayoub Kara, who slammed Biden’s Jewish voters, warning that one day Israelis “will all shed tears” over their votes. Similarly, MKs on the Left, such as Nitzan Horowitz, blasted Trump while praising Biden. They were the only Israeli politicians who could afford to take sides.

But at least they pleased one side, which was apparently one more than Netanyahu ended up doing.

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