While former President Donald Trump has thwarted conventional wisdom by maintaining strong poll numbers despite multiple criminal indictments, it was comments he made last week about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that momentarily appeared to disrupt that trend and threaten his status as the GOP presidential frontrunner as Fox News reports.
In the wake of the deadly Hamas terror attacks on Israel, politicians have been jostling to strike just the right note on the topic, and Trump's initial take – and its interpretation by a number of his rivals – sparked a degree of backlash he may not have anticipated.
The remarks that appeared to get Trump into a bit of hot water came as he opined about the intensifying conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Specifically, the former president said in reference to the Israeli PM's decision not to participate in the 2020 plan to eliminate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, “I'll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing.”
Trump went on, “But, we did the job ourselves, and it was absolute precision, magnificent, beautiful job.”
“And then Bibi tried to take credit for it. That didn't make me feel too good,” the former president added, suggesting that Israel needed to “strengthen themselves up” in light of the apparent intelligence failure that allowed Hamas to slaughter so many of its citizens.
Turning to President Joe Biden, Trump suggested that his administration was to blame for the Hamas assault and also for clashes with Hezbollah to Israel's north, opining that, in terms of working toward its stated aim to destroy Israel, the militant group funded by Iran is “very smart.”
Rivals pile on
Whether due to an intentional mischaracterization of what Trump said or because of a true disagreement with his assessment, Trump's Republican rivals for the presidential nomination wasted no time in voicing their displeasure with his comments.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stated, “I don't know what he was doing. I know they got him on the teleprompter. When he gets off that teleprompter, then there's things that happen. But the reality is this is the time to be strong, it's a time for moral clarity and to make sure that Israel is able to defend itself to the hilt.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley suggested that Trump “can't leave the past alone,” stating that “everything that he thinks about is how someone treated him or what they said to him or what happened in the past. The world is a dangerous place. We've got to be dealing with our issues straight on. Focused, disciplined, and ready to go.”
It was not just competitors within his own political party who took exception to Trump's commentary, with Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi also expressing disappointment in the former president.
“Shameful that a man like that, a former U.S. president, abets propaganda and disseminates things that wound the spirit of Israel's fighters and its citizens,” Karhi said, and perhaps his words played a role in Trump's subsequent decision to declare his support for the prime minister in a Truth Social post that included the hashtag #IstandWithBibi.”