An attempt by Donald Trump to secure an election endorsement from the Israeli prime minister has backfired during a White House photo call.
With reporters gathered in the Oval Office to mark the signing of a historic US-brokered peace deal between Israel and Sudan, the US president asked Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on speakerphone, if Joe Biden could have secured such a deal.
“Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal, Bibi? ‘Sleepy Joe’? Do you think he would have made this deal? Somehow I don’t think so,” Mr Trump asked Mr Netanyahu.
Dodging the invitation to knock Mr Trump‘s presidential opponent, the Israeli leader replied: “Uh, well, Mr President, one thing I can tell you is that we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America.
“And we appreciate what you have done enormously.”
The two leaders were speaking at an event celebrating the beginning of normalisation talks between Israel and the Arab-African nation of Sudan.
Mr Trump had put the Israeli prime minister on speakerphone in front of the gathered media, and saw an opportunity for a moment of electioneering.
The Israeli leader has been accused in the past of interfering in American elections. In 2012, he met Republican nominee Mitt Romney during the election campaign and attacked the policies of Barack Obama.
This time though, with the polls suggesting a win for Mr Biden, a more cautious Netanyahu chose a more diplomatic tone.
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There is no question that a Trump victory would be preferable for Mr Netanyahu, whose policies in the Middle East have been backed, and, to a large extent, driven by the Trump administration.
Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of the Obama-brokered Iran denuclearisation deal was roundly welcomed by Mr Netanyahu.
Historic diplomatic normalisation deals with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and now Sudan have been forged with significant White House input and – while none of the deals has yet been completed – they represent a huge shift in regional relations.
The global diplomacy has formed a key part of Mr Trump’s re-election campaign as he seeks to prove that he is a successful deal-maker.
It’s not clear quite how policy in the Middle East would shift under a Biden presidency.
While it’s unlikely that any of the Trump-brokered deals would be unpicked, it is probable that greater attempts would be made to bring the Palestinians back into the fold.
Mr Netanyahu and Mr Biden do have a relationship which spans back decades.
Mr Biden was frequently asked by then-president Obama to take the lead in trying to further peace in the region.
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