Sep 19, 2019

Rex Tillerson says Netanyahu used 'misinformation' to persuade Trump

Tillerson makes farewell remarks to State Department employees in 2018. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that while serving in President Trump's Cabinet, the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would sometimes share "misinformation" to persuade Trump on particular issues, the Harvard Gazette reports.

What he's saying: "They did that with the president on a couple of occasions, to persuade him that ‘We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys,’ Tillerson said at a panel with Harvard professors. "We later exposed it to the president so he understood, ‘You’ve been played.' It bothers me that an ally that’s that close and important to us would do that to us."

  • Tillerson called Netanyahu "an extraordinarily skilled" diplomat and politician, but also described him as "a bit Machiavellian."

The big picture: Netanyahu and Trump have enjoyed a close relationship throughout the U.S. president's tenure, which the prime minister has leveraged in 2 election campaigns. Trump has recognized both Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while Netanyahu has named a Golan settlement "Trump Heights" and erected campaign billboards showing the 2 leaders shaking hands.

  • Yes, but: Trump appeared to distance himself from Netanyahu on Wednesday after the prime minister failed to earn a parliamentary majority in the latest election. Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival and needs to remain in power in order to avoid a possible indictment for fraud and bribery.

Go deeper: Tillerson says Jared Kushner repeatedly circumvented State Department

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Israeli president gives Netanyahu first shot to form government

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 28 days to form a new government after negotiations for a unity government with Benny Gantz, leader of an opposition center-left bloc, broke down.

Why it matters: Netanyahu would need 61 members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to support his government. His right-wing block won just 55 seats in the Sept. 17 election, though, and he has no clear path to a majority.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

Scoop: Kushner expected to meet Netanyahu and Gantz on Israel trip

Kushner and Netanyahu. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Jared Kushner will travel to Israel during the last week of October, Israeli officials tell me. He is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Benny Gantz, the man seeking to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

Why it matters: Kushner knows Netanyahu well after their many meetings, but this will be his first meeting with Gantz since his entry into politics. This is another acknowledgement by the Trump administration, which had dealt solely with Netanyahu for two and a half years, that Gantz is a key political player in Israel.

Go deeperArrowOct 17, 2019

Netanyahu and rival Gantz meet for first time since Israel elections

Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz. Photos: Menahem Kahana/AFP; Amir Levy via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz met on Monday for the first time since this month's elections.

Why it matters: The 2 leaders were summoned to a trilateral meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem in an attempt to break the political deadlock and start negotiations on forming a unity government. The president of Israel is largely a ceremonial post, but Rivlin does have the authority to give a mandate to either Gantz or Netanyahu to form the next government.

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019