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In leaked transcript of White House call, Trump lauds Israel’s wall

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Today the Washington Post published a leaked transcript of classified calls that took place in January 2017 where Donald Trump name-dropped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the President of Mexico. “Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works,” Trump said to Enrique Peña Nieto in efforts to convince him to pay for construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

From the Post:

You know, you look at Israel – Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work — 99.9 percent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more. Bibi Netanyahu told me the wall works. We have also hired at least 15,000 more men and women on the border – patrolling the border very carefully. We just cannot play the game of stupidity anymore. I would love to continue talking. 

Peña Nieto responded by asking Trump to table the discussion, stating it is “an issue that goes beyond the economic situation because this is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country.”

Why Israel as a model?

Israel began construction on its 440 mile-wall in 2002. The wall is a combination of a fenced off zone, as well as concrete slabs that extend up to 26 feet in height. Eighty-five percent of the wall runs through the West Bank on Palestinian land, often dividing Palestinian towns from their agricultural lands, and separating Palestinian localities from one and another.

Palestinians have long said the wall is a land grab attempt by Israel to secure parts of the West Bank on the control of settlers. Once completed, the wall will annex 9 percent of the West Bank off limits to Palestinians, on the Israeli side of the barricade, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. 

In 2004 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion on the wall ruling it violated international law. Israel has long cited the wall as a measure to prevent suicide attackers from entering Israel.

A ‘friendly’ call

Back in January in the weeks after inauguration Trump described the private conversations with the president of Mexico as “very, very friendly.” While both heads of state gave exchanged admiration–“I consider you a friend. I met you the one time and I studied you,” Trump told Peña Nieto, the transcript reveals tense words were also traded.

At one point Peña Nieto told Trump in no uncertain terms that the wall was a non-starter:

“[W]e find this completely unacceptable for Mexicans to pay for the wall that you are thinking of building.”

Adding the wall is “the critical point that has not allowed us to move forward in the building of the relationship between our two countries.”

The leaked transcript also includes a January phone conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that turned sour when discussing whether Trump would renege on a deal to accept up to 2,000 refugees held in an offshore Australian detention facility.

Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant,” Trump told Turnbull.

The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is tasked with advising on international negotiations including Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, was mentioned by name a combined 16 times during the two calls.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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10 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth on August 3, 2017, 3:55 pm

    If I was young I’d be furious about the wall and I’d have a million ideas about other ways to squander a few trillion dollars. Now I’m old and really couldn’t care less. After all, I’m not the one who’s going to pay for it.

  2. Elizabeth Block on August 4, 2017, 10:20 am

    The wall “works.” It does what it was supposed to do: steal Palestinian land, impoverish Palestinian lives, enrage young Palestinians with any self-respect.

    • oldgeezer on August 4, 2017, 5:41 pm


      Indeed the wall works as a method of land theft amd apartheid enforcement.

      Only a complete idot claims it works for security wirh an estimated 50,000 people illegally crossing it each day. I doubt the trump wall will work as well given the geography

  3. Elizabeth Block on August 4, 2017, 10:25 am

    Who’s gonna build your wall, boys?
    Who’s gonna mow your lawn?
    Who’s gonna cook your Mexican food
    When your Mexican maid is gone?
    Who’s gonna wax the floors tonight
    Down at the local mall?
    Who’s gonna wash your baby’s face?
    Who’s gonna build your wall?

    — Tom Russell

  4. Citizen on August 4, 2017, 11:02 am

    What does La Raza have to say about Trump’s analogy to Israel’s wall?

    • larick on August 4, 2017, 4:05 pm

      “La Raza” refers to the Mexican people. Unless you’re being disrespectfully sarcastic about the Mexican people you’ll need to whittle down your question to something more specific, i.e. “what to Mexican American organizations say about….” Other than that, the BDS movement has recently targeted Hewlett Packard for participating in both projects, namely the Apartheid Wall in Israel-Palestine and the border security system to guard the U.S. against indigenous people escaping their home country as refugees, which by the way, is in keeping with international law. In disrespecting indigenous peoples, both colonial settler states act very similarly.

  5. James Canning on August 4, 2017, 12:37 pm

    One wonders if Trump is aware the “security barrier” or “Apartheid wall” was not built on Israel’s border with the West Bank.

    • larick on August 4, 2017, 5:44 pm

      “What’s the West Bank?” He might think it’s a financial institution. He’s hardly the guy who pours over maps. Nixon was a crook, but according to Sy Hersh, he would enter a State Dept. briefing on the Biafra war knowing more than the State Dept. people at the table. Ah, those were the “good old days”. I’m waiting for Trump to bring a horse into the Senate.

  6. Citizen on August 5, 2017, 1:17 am

    Trump references his young son in law 16 times in 2 calls with foreign leaders. I think Trump engages in magical thinking about Jared Kushner.

  7. dx on August 6, 2017, 1:40 am

    I live in a border state and this wall idea is just idiotic.

    Israel’s wall is 400 miles long. The US southern border is thousands of miles long–with rough and unstable areas that can’t be used for building. You also have to build decent roads to carry all the heavy equipment to get to large swaths of the border. Lots of land owners have already lost access to land they own because the wall that has already been built cannot practically follow the actual border. So their land is cut in two, just like in Israel. That’s really working, Trumpy!

    If the US really wanted to stop people from working in the US unlawfully, there is a simple way: e-verify. The system is free and already exists. All employers would have to check all potential employees. Business groups have fought this idea because they will lose cheap labor, so it’s not really talked about at all. But if they couldn’t work here, people would not come.

    So all this huffing and puffing about immigration could be stopped instantly with a few key strokes into the e-verify system if the law required it and if the penalties were stiff and heavily enforced against employers who violate the law.

    In Texas, we prefer to spend millions on sending our own state troops to the border in a show of force. It’s just a very expensive “Keep Out” sign. (Texas generally runs itself in the style of a Third World theocratic regime, so it’s not a big surprise.)

    Everyone here knows if you can get across the border, you can probably stay for as long as you want. Construction companies, restaurants, meat processors, home builders, road work, landscaping, barn crews, housekeepers, custodians, farm workers–all sorts of manual labor is done by folks who come across.

    Folks in power know how to stop it, but they don’t really want to. You would have to really rewrite the law to allow people to come in and do the work that needs to be done, pay them a fair wage, and provide safe working conditions. That would cost folks in power money and political power. Why would they ever change a situation that is working so well for them? Especially when this, the effective thing to do, will not be an improvement for rich people. Better to spend the regular people’s money on a facade.

    Trump is a fool. He has no clue. And he can keep the people happy with all this “wall”rhetoric, but it’s a joke. Employers would rather watch state (and federal) money go straight down the drain than risk their cheap work force.

    I think I read that the wall was a 17th century solution to a 21st century problem. That’s about right.

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