Netanyahu calls Trump's dinner with Holocaust denier Fuentes 'a mistake'

In a wide-ranging interview, PM-elect tells Jewish journalist Bari Weiss that former U.S. president's decision to dine with 'this person' was 'wrong and misplaced,' but adds he is 'unabashedly appreciative of what he did for Israel'

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Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said former U.S. President Donald Trump infamous dinner with rapper Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes was a "mistake."
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  • Sitting down for a thorough interview with Jewish journalist Bari Weiss, Netanyahu touched on a myriad of issues as he is working to form a new coalition government.
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    בנימין ונתניהו, דונלד טראמפ
    בנימין ונתניהו, דונלד טראמפ
    Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu with former U.S. President Donald Trump
    (Photo: MCT)
    Weiss had asked Netanyahu to comment on Trump’s meeting with West, the rapper and designer now known as Ye who in recent weeks has come out as an antisemite, and Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and antisemite whom Ye now consults - as he himself is said to be running for 2024 presidency.
    "I think that that’s what I would say about President Trump’s decision to dine with this person I think is wrong and misplaced,” Netanyahu told Weiss in a piece she posed Wednesday on her newsletter, Common Sense. “I think it’s a mistake. He shouldn’t do that.”
    It was not clear which one of the two Netanyahu was referring to as “this person.” Netanyahu said he also condemned Ye’s recent remarks, which accuse Jews of exercising outsize control and declaring “death con 3 on the Jews.”
    In his interview with Weiss, Netanyahu nevertheless made clear his appreciation of Trump, who hewed U.S. policy to Netanyahu’s agenda: ditching the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defunding the Palestinians and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, among other measures.
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    בנימין ונתניהו, דונלד טראמפ
    בנימין ונתניהו, דונלד טראמפ
    Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu with former U.S. President Donald Trump
    (Photo: EPA)
    “He has been a tremendous supporter of Israel, and I’m unabashedly appreciative of what he did for Israel,” he said. “I appreciate all that it doesn’t take away from. Also, you know, he’s been very supportive of the Jewish people. So I think he made a mistake. I hope it’s not repeated. That’s all I can tell you.”
    Netanyahu also talked about leaning of his brother's death during operation Entebbe. Thirty-year-old Yoni Netanyahu was the only casualty in an otherwise near-flawless operation, where 102 hostages were rescued by Israeli commandos after their plane was hijacked by Palestinian militants.
    After several unsuccessful attempts to speak to his brother after the operation, Netanyahu said he suspected something was wrong when he finally got a phone call. "I remember turning to my wife and saying that it's probably to tell me Yoni had been killed, and that's what they told me. There was an indescribable silence of agony on both sides of the line and all I could think of was that my parents wouldn't hear about it through the media."
    "I made my way to Ithaca, New York to tell me parents. My father asked what I was doing there but he understood from my expression. The way my parents cried felt worse than hearing about it in the first place. It was like a second death."
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    Yoni Netanyahu (left) with Benjamin and their father
    Yoni Netanyahu (left) with Benjamin and their father
    Yoni Netanyahu (left) with Benjamin and their father
    (David Rubinger)
    "Yoni didn't just believe it was a military fight," Netanyahu said on his brother's military service. "He believed it was a civilizational battle. Barbarians vs freedom and human rights."
    Netanyahu also referenced a 16th century Italian philosopher, Giambattista Vico, who said that nations are born, flourish, wither and die in reference to the struggle of the Je. "The Jewish people broke that cycle. We've died a hundred deaths and we've come back to life."
    He added that those who wish Israel ill "come and go and change shape," but the Jewish state can now defend itself in ways that were "unimaginable a century ago."
    Netanyahu said that in order to have a strong army "with F-35 jets and drones" you need a lot of money. "I'm a free marketer by inclination anyway, but became a rabid free marketer during my time as prime minister and especially finance minister."
    He then claimed that he transformed Israel into a free-market economy and changed Israel forever, and that before he came to power, Israel was a "semi-socialist" country.
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    Netanyahu with former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
    Netanyahu with former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
    Netanyahu with former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
    (Photo: GPO)
    Regarding his own political resiliency, he said you could find many examples of politicians coming back from a political death, but he's the only one in the last 75 years who came back twice. He spoke of how he used that opportunity to make Israel strong, which generated an opportunity for peace with Arab neighbors. "Nobody thought we could make peace with," he said.
    While hoping that Saudi Arabia would be the next country to make peace with Israel, he distinguished that from peace with the Palestinians, saying they are "tail tagging the Arab world."
    He then said that Likud is the only democratic party in Israel, putting himself up for re-election every time, while other parties appoint their leaders in near-theocratic fashion. Netanyahu went on to equate himself to Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, calling himself "Hamitonian and also Madisonian".
    As to Iran's nuclear ambitions, Netanyahu said that Israel has changed the mind of many Arab nations who now view Israel as "an indispensable ally" in their joint cause of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As to Iran's recent uprising, he described the people's rebellion against the Iranian regime as "amazing."
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    המחאה באיראן
    המחאה באיראן
    Anti-regime protests in Iran
    (Photo: AP)
    Skeptical of any prospect for peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said they "want a peace without Israel," further insisting that if there was an independent Palestinian entity, it would have to be militarily-controlled by Israel.
    When asked about supposedly fashionable it has become in progressive circles to oppose Israel, he rhetorically asked if supporting Hamas and other regimes who shoot dissenters is any better. "Have people gone mad?" he asked, decrying the pervasiveness of political correctness, adding he just likes to be "correct."
    Referring to the rise of antisemitism in America, Netanyahu sarcastically said that antisemitism is the oldest trick in the book and whenever anyone has a problem, they blame the Jew. The solution, he says, is standing up for yourself as a Jew and that eventually people will stand with you.

    Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this report
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