Republican rivals of former President Donald Trump have lashed out at the GOP front-runner for telling a story about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which put him in a negative light and suggested he’s ‘weak’ at a sensitive moment.
It happened Wednesday night at a campaign rally. Trump was recounting the events and hours leading up to his decision to kill top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a 2020 drone strike outside the Baghdad airport. Trump told a cheering crowd that the Israeli prime minister “let us down” by backing out of participation in the covert operation at the last minute. Watch:
Trump: (killing Iran’s Soleimani)
I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing.
He tried to take credit for and it didn’t make me feel too good. pic.twitter.com/03viq8Kz8E
— Clash Report (@clashreport) October 12, 2023
Trump also controversially said this week Israeli leaders need to “step up their game” as Netanyahu “was not prepared” for the deadly Saturday raid into southern Israel. He further called Hezbollah “very smart” while generally urging Israel to be more prepared and efficient. He had at one point called Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk”.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, chief among Trump’s 2024 rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, blasted the somewhat impulsive words, saying “Now is not the time to be attacking our ally,” – especially as the Israeli bodies and missing are still being counted.
DeSantis also admitted that while “there’s a lot of people that generally like Trump’s policies,” they are not “big fans” of his behavior, in a swipe at the story about Soleimani’s death.
But it was Chris Christie, also in the 2024 race, who went even more on the attack, calling Trump “a fool”.
“Only a fool would make those kinds of comments. Only a fool would give comments that give aid and comfort to Israel’s adversary in this situation, and he always places it in the context of himself,” the former New Jersey governor said.
The context for Trump not liking Bibi. Bibi left Trump hanging in front of everyone ahead of the election … pic.twitter.com/cM3sSLpqmp
— NEWS MAKER (@NEWS_MAKER) October 13, 2023
“This is someone who cares not about the American people, not about the people of Israel, but he cares about one person and one person only: The person he sees in the mirror when he wakes up in the morning,” Christie continued. “As a Republican Party, we cannot once again nominate a fool like this to be our nominee and get him anywhere near the presidency of the United States.”
Jewish groups also weren’t happy:
Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary who serves on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said he wished Trump would “let his personal grievances with Bibi, whatever they are, slide for now.”
And here’s Trump’s own former Vice President weighing in…
Mike Pence blasts Donald Trump for criticizing Netanyahu and calling Hezbollah smart: “I found the former president’s comments to be reckless and irresponsible…Hezbollah is not very smart. They’re evil.” pic.twitter.com/rJjoEVRYaJ
— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) October 13, 2023
Journalist Max Blumenthal offered his opinion on Trump’s words, saying “Every US President has hated Netanyahu, regarding him as a conniving fanatic. But only Trump said out loud what Obama was overheard saying on a hot mic and Clinton said in private.”