At this grave moment in Israel’s history, when its very existence as a sovereign nation is being challenged by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, the former president of the United States committed an egregious error.
Donald Trump, still the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, foolishly chose to air personal grievances instead of coming out unequivocally in support of Israel.
Shortly after bands of Hamas terrorists mercilessly slaughtered 1,400 Israeli men, women, children and babies in southern Israel on October 7 in a day of searing infamy, Trump weighed in on these catastrophic and tragic events in a speech to his supporters in West Palm Beach, Florida, and in a radio interview on the Brian Kilmeade Show.
Criticizing the Israeli government over the horrendous intelligence and military failure that enabled 3,000 Hamas terrorists to break into Israel and murder such a shockingly high number of civilians and soldiers within a few short hours, Trump lambasted Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as a “jerk” and described Hezbollah as “very smart.”
In private, he reportedly called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s impeachment in the grounds that he failed to anticipate Hamas’ massive onslaught, according to reports.
Trump, who has often cast himself as America’s most pro-Israel president, was obviously venting when he issued these surprising and completely inappropriate comments.
Still furious over Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US presidential election and still convinced he won it, Trump — a super narcissist and an extremely poor loser — has apparently never forgiven Netanyahu for having congratulated Biden. In his jaundiced view, Netanyahu’s phone call to Biden was an unmistakable sign of disloyalty.
What else was Netanyahu expected to do? Snub Biden?
Trump also lashed out at Netanyahu over his apparent last-minute decision to back out of a 2020 US operation to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.
“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down,” said Trump. “That was a very terrible thing. We were very disappointed, but we did the job ourselves … Then Bibi tried to take credit for it. That didn’t make me feel good.”
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump, defended his twisted narrative.
However, Trump’s dubious remarks drew utter scorn from Republicans seeking to win the nomination and from the White House.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, hit the mark when he said, “Only a fool would make those kinds of comments. Only a fool would give comments that could give aid and comfort to Israel’s adversary in this situation.”
Mike Pence, who served as Trump’s vice-president, said he had conveyed the wrong message. “This is no time for the former president or any other American leader to be sending any other message than American stands with Israel. Look, Hezbollah (is) not smart. They’re evil, OK?”
Distancing himself from Trump, Ron DeSantis said, “You’re not going to find me throwing verbal grenades at the Israeli leadership.”
“Shame on you,” Asa Hutchison wrote on the social media site X. “Your constant compliments to dictators, terrorist groups and evil-doers are beneath the office you seek and not reflective of the American character.”
Hutchison should not have been blindsided by Trump’s outburst. As president, he called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius” and “very savvy” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and complimented North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as “very honorable.”
The deputy White House press secretary, Andrew Bates, said, “Statements like this are dangerous and unhinged. It’s lost on me why any American would ever praise an Iran-backed terrorist organization as ‘smart.’ Or have any objection to the United States warning terrorists not to attack Israel.”
The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, a member of Biden’s reelection campaign, justifiably tore into Trump. “No true friend of Israel, the Jewish people or of peace, would praise Hezbollah just days after what President Biden and Jewish leaders have called the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”
Stung by the fierce reaction to his patently self-serving and incredibly shallow remarks, Trump went into damage control mode. On his Truth Social network on October 13, Trump said he stood with Israel and Netanyahu.
During his presidency, Trump hewed to a consistently pro-Israel agenda, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, and brokering the Abraham Accords, which made it possible for Israel to normalize its relations several Arab countries, notably the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
Nonetheless, his most recent remarks are extremely unwise and disappointing, while his backpedaling impresses no one but his most ardent and devoted followers.
To Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, he is surely nothing more than a useful idiot inadvertently serving their objectives.
Already twice impeached, Trump faces four serious criminal cases brought against him by the US government. He may well face imprisonment for the crimes he committed.
His successful bid for his party’s presidential nomination would be disastrous. His reelection as president would be cataclysmic.