US President Donald Trump did not need anyone to convince him to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday, two days after a tape emerged of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking credit for Trump’s position against the deal.
“From the start, he [Trump] said it was terrible,” one official said, adding that Netanyahu did stand alone “against many other world leaders in opposing the deal.”
According to the official, Trump and Netanyahu had a “meeting of the minds on this subject.” He said that Netanyahu is “deeply grateful” for Trump’s “bold leadership in opposing Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and its aggression throughout the region and beyond.”
Netanyahu has articulated that same sentiment on numerous occasions.
On Tuesday, Kan Television aired a clip of Netanyahu boasting to Likud activists two weeks ago that Israel “convinced the US president – and I had to stand up against the whole world – to come out against the agreement. We did not give up.”
The official said that from the first moment that Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015, “he was talking about how this was the worst deal ever signed. So the idea that Netanyahu came in and shifted his view [is incorrect]. We obviously don’t want the impression that he [Trump] was wavering, he was just hearing from many different leaders [to support the deal], so it was the prime minister against all the different leaders. That was the origin of Netanyahu’s comment.”
The official said that Jerusalem did not come under any pressure from Washington to walk back Netanyahu’s comments and that he simply wanted to “set the record straight.”
Trump has consistently derided the nuclear deal throughout his political career, criticizing the agreement in his first campaign speech and as recently as Monday, alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, who pushed back in defense of the agreement.
The two leaders are believed to have discussed the deal during a private meeting in Helsinki that lasted over two hours, and was followed by a spectacular press conference, now famous for Trump’s obfuscation on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that they also discussed the “security of Israel” and Middle East peace, among other matters.
Trump said he stressed “the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East.”
Putin said that Trump placed a particular emphasis on Israel’s security in their negotiations over Syria.
“I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS,” he added, referring to Islamic State.