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WATCH: Netanyahu swerves Trump's invitation to criticise 'sleepy Joe' Biden in awkward telephone exchange

President Trump spoke to Netanyahu on Friday [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2020

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Netanyahu's diplomatic response appeared to wipe the smile from the president's face.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swerved an invitation to take shot at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, leaving US President Donald Trump seemingly deflated at the White House.

The pair spoke over speakerphone in front of journalists, following Friday's announcement that Sudan would become the latest Arab state to normalise ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal.

Feeling jubilant, the president took swipe at Biden and asked Netanyahu: "Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi? Sleepy Joe? I think - do you think he would have made this deal somehow? I don't think so."

After a brief hesitation, the Israeli leader replied: "Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America. And we appreciate what you've done enormously."

Netanyahu's swerve appeared to disappoint the president, whose celebratory tone faded as he signalled to a reporter to ask a question.

Despite Israel enjoying close ties with the Trump administration over a number of diplomatic issues, Netanyahu's refusal to take the debate reflects the precarious position in which Trump has foudn himself in the run-up to the November 3 election.

Trump currently lags in the polls behind Biden, with some observers contending that Netanyahu has increasingly attempted to distance himself from the US incumbent as the election draws closer.

Under Trump's presidency, the US took the unprecedented step of recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, breaking with decades of convention. The move sparked a backlash from Arab and Muslim states, while also triggering protests around the world and in the Palestinian territories.

The Trump administration also slashed crucial funding to the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Until the announcement in 2018, the US was the largest single contributor to the agency, paying $1.1 billion of UNRWA's annual budget.

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