Ari Emanuel Rips Israeli Leader During Fiery Speech At Wiesenthal Center Gala: “Time For Bibi Netanyahu To Go”

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Ari Emanuel tonight left no ambiguity of what he thinks about Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Gala, where he was awarded its Humanitarian Prize, the Endeavor CEO blasted the Israeli prime minister, saying, “The time for Bibi Netanyahu to go has come.”

More from Deadline

“This is a painful and crucial moment for all of us who are Jews. It is not a time to stay silent,” Emanuel said to the packed Beverly Wilshire ballroom. Among the high-powered audience at the Beverly Hills hotel on Wednesday were Larry David, Amazon Prime Video boss Jennifer Salke and spouse Bert Salke, Jeffery and Marilyn Katzenberg, powerhouse attorney Patty Glaser and husband Sam, WME co-chairs Christian Muirhead and Richard Weitz, and producer Brian Grazer. As well, a number of Holocaust survivors and those who lived through the fatal terror of Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israeli border towns and army bases.

“Hamas could end this war today. This war needs to end … it’s not impossible,” Emanuel went on to declare to a few jeers upon recommending a negotiated peace to a two-state solution amidst the IDF pummelling of Gaza in the months since October.

Read a full transcript of Ari Emanuel’s speech & see video below.

Sweeping aside the recent IOC war crimes claims against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Emanuel lamented the “heartbreaking” death — which he briefly called “murder” — of children in Gaza. Taking a look around the globe at wars everywhere, Emanuel exclaimed, “Israel should not be held to a double standard.”

Added Emanuel added: “Netanyahu has tarnished the legacy that does not belong to him. We have a responsibility to speak out. The time for Bibi Netanyahu to go has come.”

There were a few scattered boos and several exits when Emanuel directly criticized the cynical methods of “problem creator” Netanyahu as the hindrance to a lasting peace. On the other hand, cries of “You go, Ari!” also punctuated the ballroom, as did applause for his scathing denunciation of the right-wing politician.

At the same time, with tension rising in some sections of the crowd, more guests were seen walking out of the ballroom as Emanuel offered his ferocious view of Netanyahu’s leadership before and since the horrific Hamas surge into the Jewish state last fall.

In his opening remarks tonight, Wiesenthal Center CEO Jim Berk announced that the nonprofit is launching an “army of truth tellers” with the online #TruthFightsBack initiative. The former Participant executive also revealed that the Center’s Academy Award-winning media arm is evolving from just producing documentaries to TV series and other formats.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel alum Alex Bornstein was the emcee of the gala on Thursday.

In introducing Jeffrey Katzenberg, she described the longtime industry exec as “tireless” and “incapable of doing anything halfway. In that vein, Katzenberg himself then introduced Emanuel, pointing out that the pugilistic CEO was “not exactly known for being a shy and retiring fellow.”

Going through a litany of Emanuel’s charity and other philanthropic work, the DreamWorks co-founder praised tonight’s honoree as “fearless” and recalled the Endeavor leader’s calling out of Mel Gibson and Kanye West over the years for their antisemitic remarks.

Before Emanuel took the stage, a WME-produced video was played that featurd Larry David, Mark Wahlberg, family members (including a certain Ambassador to Japan), Ron Perlman, Morning Joe hosts, Dwanye Johnson, UFC’s Dana White, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others. As one would expect, it was full of praise, but it also acknowledged Emanuel’s infamous short attention span, to laughter from the crowd.

Only the “shut the f*ck up” closer from WME co-chair Muirhead in the video topped the short attention span quip in turns of crowd-pleasing.

Noting Emanuel’s past representation of “MAGA and Trump” to unease giggles, Tyler Perry got the audience roaring with tales of million-mile-an-hour fast conversations with the agent. “It’s like watching rabbits having sex,” the prolific multihyphenate said. “There’s bunnies everywhere.”

Staying well within the laughs, Perry also spoke of Emanuel’s heart, saying it “is something you want on your side.”

The Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Gala is an annual event held since the Carter administration. Other recent recipients of the SWC’s Humanitarian Award include entertainment industry heavyweights Shari Redstone, Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger and Katzenberg.

Here is Emanuel speech in full:

I want to thank the Simon Wiesenthal Center for this honor and for the indispensable work you do to fight anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms. We need you now more than ever.

This is a painful and crucial moment for all of us who are Jews and who love Israel. It is not a moment to stay silent.

My connection to Israel goes back to before I was born and even before the state of Israel was founded.

In 1933, my uncle Emanuel Auerbach died during a massive protest in Jerusalem when a bullet struck him and killed him. Our last name was changed to Emanuel in his memory. I remember sitting with my family in front of the TV watching the first early morning reports when the Six-Day War started, praying that Israel would survive. Less than three weeks later, my mother, my brothers and I were on a plane to be in Israel ourselves. We returned summer after summer for six years.

Israel is a small country. And in the entire world, there are only 15 million Jews. Precariousness is not something that ever needs to be explained to a Jew. We’re keenly aware of our position in the world — and what can happen if we forget.

So we have to be better. Stronger. Wiser.

One lesson of our history is that we must defend ourselves.

All wars are brutal. Women, children, and civilians suffer. It is terrible.

Yet some wars are justified. Israel did not start the war in Gaza. Hamas did.

And I won’t even dignify with a response the outrageous decision by the I.C.C. to equate the murderous attacks by Hamas with Israel’s right to defend itself.

Hamas slaughtered innocent Israelis — as well as civilians of the United States, Canada, Germany, Thailand, and many other countries. They were sexually assaulted, raped, mutilated, and tortured.

Hamas has pledged to wipe out Israel. That is its raison d’etre. We all know in this room what “from the river to the sea” means — it’s a promise to eliminate Israel and all the Jews from the river to the sea.

That is the definition of genocide.

People who chant this slogan are calling for the end of the Jewish state. Students who say “Zionists don’t deserve to live” are not misguided kids — they’re anti-Semitic thugs. This isn’t about free speech. It’s about right and wrong. 

The world is rightly outraged by the deaths of innocent Palestinians in this war. The UN has now cut by nearly half the number of women and children believed to have been killed in Gaza.
But there is no doubt the number is still heartbreaking.

The loss of even a single innocent child is a tragedy.

But Israel cannot be the only country in the world that has to put up with terrorists on both its northern and southern border who, again and again, openly state their commitment to the destruction of Israel and all Jews, and act on that commitment.

And who on October 7th broke another cease fire? The sort of cease fire that many are calling for now.

And where is the outrage about the civilians being killed right now in Sudan, where earlier this month Human Rights Watch warned that an actual genocide could be unfolding? In Ukraine? Where were the campus protests when the Syrian dictator slaughtered his own people? According to the UN Human Rights Office, over 300,00 civilians have been killed there. Where were the protests when the United States attacked ISIS in Mosul in Iraq and thousands of civilians died?

It is one thing for Jews to hold ourselves to a higher standard. But Israel should not face a double standard. 

Let’s be clear: Israel is not targeting civilians the way terrorists do. Israel is targeting the Hamas fighters who planned and perpetrated the October 7th attacks, who deliberately hide among civilians and use them as human shields, who put command centers and supplies in schools, mosques and hospitals, and who commandeer ambulances to move around. And who continue to fire rockets into Israel, like the 14 rockets that launched on May 10th.  Those are choices Hamas has made.

They are the ones who continue to make all of Gaza a battlefield. 

Hamas could end this war today. They could free the hostages today. We don’t know how many exactly remain in captivity or alive because Hamas refuses to even release the details.

Of course, they will not do that. Hamas started this war, and they continue to wage it, and so Israel must fight it.

But it is up to Israel to decide how. And make no mistake: For the security of Israel and the sake of innocent people on both sides, this is a war does need to end. Not just the fighting in Gaza but the broader conflict with the Palestinians. 

That means negotiating a political two-state solution that delivers peace, security and dignity for all. This won’t be easy. It will be incredibly hard. But it is not impossible. 

As Yair Lapid wisely said recently, “in order to stay the strongest country in the Middle East,” Israel needs to “stay the strongest democracy in the Middle East.” And to do that, Israel must start “the long journey” to separate from the Palestinians. Lapid is right when he says that separating is not a favor or reward for the Palestinians. It’s for Israel’s own good – for Israel’s survival as a democratic Jewish state. 

The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want the same thing: For their kids to be healthy and go to school, to make a living and live a peaceful life they can pass on to the next generation. 

I know a bit about negotiations. My mother taught me, you don’t negotiate peace with friends. You don’t negotiate with allies. You negotiate with enemies.

But to get there, you need strong and wise leaders on both sides.

Unfortunately, Israel is being led by a man who doesn’t want a peaceful solution. He doesn’t want to secure the future of Israel or the reputation and safety of Jews globally. He only wants to secure his own power and political survival. 

Israel is being led not by a problem solver, but by a problem creator. He is an agent of chaos and hatred and division and destruction. And enough is enough.

Bibi Netanyahu is a failure. He has no political plan on how to end the war or secure the peace. Israelis know it. The Israeli generals know it. They’re saying it as clearly. On May 15th, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant gave a televised address in which he said that since October he has been asking Netanyahu for a plan of who will rule Gaza when the war is over, and he has received no response. As he said, in the absence of a plan, “only two negative options remain”: Hamas rules Gaza or the Israeli military rules Gaza.

So it should come as no surprise that Hamas is popping back up in the northern areas in Gaza again. The whole world can see that Netanyahu has only one plan: endless war so he can stay in office and out of jail.

When I was growing up, any time there was a Jew in the news who had done something bad, my father would say, “He’s ruining the Jewish people’s reputation in the world!”

It is now time to recognize that Netanyahu is ruining our reputation and doing incredible and lasting damage both to Israel and to the Jewish people around the world. 

As Senator Chuck Schumer said recently, “Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah.” That is what Netanyahu is doing, dragging Israel into the same pariah status that he has rightly earned for himself.

For two decades, he has divided Jews in Israel and around the world to stay in power as long as possible. That has been his only goal all along. As for his responsibilities to keep the people of the state of Israel and Jews across the globe safe, he has obviously failed spectacularly. But he has succeeded wildly in using division to stay in power.

In the years leading up to the barbaric October 7th terrorist attacks, Netanyahu allowed money from Qatar to be funneled to Hamas.

There are currently hundreds of millions of dollars being used to hide the murderers of October 7th. He empowered terrorists in Gaza to undermine the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the chances of a two-state solution. 

It wasn’t a secret. Here’s what he said in 2019: “Whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support delivery funds to Gaza because maintaining separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu doesn’t want a peaceful solution. And it’s become clear that getting to a political solution and Netanyahu remaining in power are irreconcilable paths.

Jews are not a selfish people. We are people whose bible tells us to treat the stranger like one of our own, who should set aside the corners of the field for the orphan and the widow. We are the people who helped in the Civil Rights movement in this country. Like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who gave their lives for that cause in Mississippi on June 21, 1964. We are the most charitable people. But Bibi is fundamentally selfish.

The cost of giving this man what he wants has become too great for far too many people. Reputations can be ruined a lot more quickly and more easily than they can be repaired. Netanyahu is trashing a legacy that doesn’t belong to him.

For the good of Israel, he should go. So should the extremists in his cabinet, who are inciting violence in the West Bank and have been undermining democracy in Israel.

There is no contradiction in saying that Israel is justified in fighting to free the hostages and destroy Hamas, that we should mourn the deaths of Palestinian civilians and seek to minimize casualties, that we should bring to justice settlers who commit violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, and to call for new leadership in Israel that will eliminate Hamas but also find a political solution for the region.

Indeed, these are all just causes and moral imperatives, and they are all connected. Israel will never be truly secure so long as Bibi is in charge.

It is up to the Israeli people to choose their own leaders. Israel is a democracy. But as Jews, we have a stake in this. We also have a responsibility to speak out. We are called to “repair the world,” Tikkun Olam. And as Elie Wiesel said, “Sometimes we must interfere.”

We recently celebrated Passover. A strong and just leader can guide our people to security and freedom. But following false idols and weak, selfish leaders brings us only chaos and destruction. 
Today, as always, Israel needs wise, just leaders. The time has come to finally move past Netanyahu.

Thank you.

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.