'Israel Says Merry Christmas,' Netanyahu Insists in Video Message Inspired By President Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem December 24. That same day, he said "Merry Christmas" to Israel's Christian citizens and friends all over the world in a video message posted to his Twitter account. Amir Cohen/Reuters

Have yourself a Bibi little Christmas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a hearty "Merry Christmas" from the Jewish state on Christmas Eve, apparently joining President Donald Trump's ongoing crusade to use the phrase instead of the generic "Happy holidays."

"I'm very proud to be the prime minister of Israel, a country that says 'Merry Christmas' first to its Christian citizens and to our Christian friends around the world," Netanyahu said in a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday and featuring Jerusalem in the background. "I'm proud that Israel is the country in which Christians not only survive, but they thrive because we believe in this friendship among people and we protect the rights of everyone to worship in the holy shrines behind me."

Merry Christmas from Jerusalem, the capital of Israel! pic.twitter.com/ChhsuqudW8

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 24, 2017

Netanyahu's message comes in the wake of Trump's outspoken and repeated efforts to champion "Merry Christmas." During his campaign and the first year of his presidency, Trump repeatedly promised he would end the "war on Christmas"—which does or does not actually exist depending on who you ask—and "make Christmas great again."

He repeated himself yet again on Christmas Eve, telling soldiers deployed overseas on a video conference that "I just want to wish everybody a very, very merry Christmas. We say merry Christmas, again, very, very proudly. Very, very merry Christmas," and tweeting that evening:

People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2017

In his own message, Netanyahu didn't stop with "Merry Christmas." The prime minister also made a proposition to "all our Christian friends" for next year's holiday, promising to guide a Christmas tour in Jerusalem in 2018 for any who came to visit.

"Think of all the places you can walk—you can go to the Jesus Boat in the Sea of Galilee, you can get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre right behind me, any places that you want to visit in the footsteps of Jesus and the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage," he said. "So please come to Israel. Next year in Jerusalem, and Merry Christmas to all of you."

His invitation for a tour of Jerusalem comes less than three weeks after Trump's announcement that the U.S. would formally recognize the city as Israel's capital and make plans to move the embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu called the decision "courageous and just." President Trump's "name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people," he said. "We are already in contacts with other countries that will declare similar recognition," he added. "It's about time."

But the announcement also prompted swift criticism around the world, including mixed reactions from U.S.-based Jewish groups. In a 128-9 vote on Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution that condemned Trump's decision and called on other countries not to follow suit, saying they should "refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem."

President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, which voted against the UN resolution, said on Sunday that after speaking with Netanyahu, he had decided to move that country's embassy to Jerusalem.