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.