Trump Comments Critical of Israel, Netanyahu Called ‘Shameful’ by Israeli Official
Trump says leaders in Israel ‘need to straighten themselves out’ and warns that Hezbollah is ‘very smart.’
Israeli leaders described as “shameful” comments from President Trump Wednesday night critical of the country’s intelligence capabilities and belittling its prime minister for not cooperating with America when his administration killed a top Iranian leader.
In a speech at West Palm Beach before a crowd of loyal followers, Mr. Trump said leaders in Israel “need to straighten themselves out” and warned that Hezbollah is “very smart” and may take advantage of the current situation.
“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down,” Mr Trump said, referring to the prime minister. “That was a very terrible thing, I’ll say that. So when I see sometimes the intelligence — you talk about the intelligence, you talk about the things that went wrong over the last week — they’ve got to straighten it out, because they’re fighting potentially a very big force. They’re fighting potentially Iran, and when they have people saying the wrong things, everything’s being digested by these people because they’re vicious and they’re smart.”
Mr. Trump singled out Mr. Netanyahu for not cooperating with the American assassination of Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. “We were disappointed by that, very disappointed,” he said. “Bibi tried taking credit for it,” Mr. Trump added. “That didn’t make me feel too good.” He also referred to the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, as a “jerk.”
Later in the same speech, after saying he wholeheartedly supports Israel’s war against Hamas, he insisted that had the election not been rigged against him in 2020, “there would be nobody even thinking about going into Israel.”
The remarks came as a shock to many in Israel who consider Mr. Trump one of the country’s most vocal supporters in American politics. Speaking to Israel’s Channel 13 news, the Israeli communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, called the remarks “shameful.”
It is “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,” Mr. Karhi said. “We don’t have to bother with him and the nonsense he spouts,” he added. Asked if Mr. Trump’s comments make it clear that he can’t be relied on, he replied, “Obviously.”
Mr. Trump has long been critical of Mr. Netanyahu, telling a reporter from Axios in 2021 that he was particularly incensed when the prime minister congratulated President Biden for his election victory in 2020 while Mr. Trump was still contesting the results. “Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake,” Mr. Trump reportedly said.
The reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks were in sharp contrast to the reaction to President Biden’s speech earlier this week saying America would stand behind Israel and calling out Hamas as vicious terrorists. Mr. Trump’s own ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, called the speech “exceptional.”
“In Judaism there is an obligation of ‘Hakarat Hatov’— saying thank you to those who perform good deeds. While I have been, and remain, deeply critical of the Biden administration, the moral, tactical, diplomatic and military support that it has provided Israel over the past few days has been exceptional,” Mr. Friedman said.
“As one living in Jerusalem with children who are Israeli citizens, I am deeply grateful. I pray that American support continues in the difficult days ahead,” he added in a post on Twitter.