It’s about him. It’s always about him. In the wake of Hamas’ savage terrorist attack on Israel, former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump somehow found a way to make this all about him.
During a speech in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, Trump criticized Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over a past perceived slight, and praised Hezbollah terrorists—who have been exchanging fire with the Israel Defense Forces on a second front in the North of Israel—as “smart.”
The context is important. We are just days removed from a terrorist attack that has been described as Israel’s 9/11. Babies were killed and their bodies desecrated. Women were raped. Elderly people were abducted. Hostages (including Americans) are missing. The nation is still mourning.
And, in the wake of all of this, Trump thinks this is a good time to dredge up an old indignity by the prime minister—someone he had previously lavished with praise and called a friend.
Trump’s reason for launching this verbal assault? He’s still angry about Israel’s refusal to participate in the 2020 killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, then head of Iran’s Quds Force.
“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing,” Trump said. (Note: Trump’s invocation of the words “never forget” is likely accidental, if extraordinarily insensitive. But what else would we expect from a man who adopted the “America First” slogan?)
Trump later added that, after the mission to take out Suleimani was successful, “Bibi tried to take credit for it.”
Translation: Never mind the terrorist attack, Trump is the real victim.
“Question: What would people say if Barack Obama praised an Islamic terror organization as ‘very smart’?”
Regardless of the merit of this (the veracity has yet to be confirmed), there is a time to air grievances and there is a time to comfort our friends. For any normal human being, this moment would call for the latter.
But who could be surprised? One of Trump’s first big political “scandals” came when he attacked John McCain, a former prisoner of war, for being captured. (When people tell you who they are, believe them.)
Of course, there’s more to Trump’s criticism of Bibi than meets the eye. There’s always more to the story when it comes to Trump.
Trump—who loves to praise evil strongmen like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un—wouldn’t publicly criticize Bibi were it not for another perceived slight.
If there’s one thing that really annoys Trump, it’s people who aren’t willing to perpetuate his big lie.
Say what you will about Bibi; he wasn’t about to let Trump’s reality distortion field force him to take sides against the man who was likely to be the next POTUS.
In Trump’s warped mind, though, Bibi should have been more loyal to Trump than he is to the truth… or Israel. “Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi… But I also like loyalty… Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake,” Trump was quoted as saying at the time, before adding: “I haven’t spoken to him since. F—- him.”
Now, it is true that under Trump’s leadership, America moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. At Netanyahu’s urging, Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. And Trump also brokered the Abraham Accords—earning praise from this columnist (note: others argue that it contributed to Hamas’ attack).
But in typical Trumpian fashion, Trump assumes that these favors buy lifetime loyalty from Bibi, the nation of Israel, and even Jewish Americans.
Speaking of which, just last month, Trump “commemorated” Rosh Hashanah by sending out a flier on the Truth Social platform reminding “liberal Jews” of all he has done for Israel. He also added a note blaming them for having “voted to destroy America & Israel…”
Back to Trump’s latest comments this week: He didn’t just criticize Bibi for not being “prepared” for the attacks, he broadly criticized Israel’s intelligence failure that allowed last week’s Hamas terror attacks to succeed.
(Question: What would people say if Barack Obama praised an Islamic terror organization as “very smart”?)
It’s tempting to dismiss Trump’s blather as laughable, but the stakes are high. At a time when Ukraine and Israel both face serious threats, should the leader of the free world be a thin-skinned and capricious president who puts his own ego above all else?
Does America really want four more years of chaos and a president who is harder on allies than dictators?
The good news is that Trump vowed to “stand with Israel 100 percent” and “not let them fail.” This is to say that he still considers himself a friend of Israel.
For Netanyahu, who now girds for what looks to be a grueling ground invasion and rescue mission, this may feel like cold comfort.
With friends like Donald Trump, who needs friends?