Donald Trump’s remarks over the conflict between Israel and Palestine have caused a small but notable proportion of Republicans to side with President Joe Biden.
Politicians have been on treacherous ground when addressing the conflict. Israel is a major ally of the United States, but reports of Palestinian civilians being killed in the fighting has caused some to express concern over the situation.
Last week in a speech to supporters, the former president said Israel had to “straighten it out because they’re fighting, potentially a very big force.” He labeled Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk” while repeatedly describing Hezbollah, the militant Islamist group in Lebanon, as “very smart.”
“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down,” Trump said, referring to the U.S. drone strike which killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020 which he claimed Israel pulled out of at the last minute. “That was a very terrible thing,” he added, before adding that the country was “not very prepared” for a potential Hamas attack.
His comments drew quick criticism from Israeli communications minister Shlomo Karhi, who said: “A former US president abets propaganda and disseminates things that wound the spirit of Israel’s fighters and its citizens. We don’t have to bother with him and the nonsense he spouts.”
Criticism From The GOP
More than 1,300 Israelis and 2,300 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting so far. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said his country is at “war” with Hamas, cutting off supplies of food, fuel, and electricity to Gaza.
Trump’s remarks, according to Republican Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham, were a “huge mistake.” In an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press, Graham praised the former president’s policies towards Israel during his term in office, but added that he wanted to “applaud President Biden for his strong statement in support of Israel.”
Republicans continued to call out Trump over the weekend. Former United Nations ambassador and GOP candidate Nikki Haley said his remarks “makes America look weak,” adding: “This is not the time to bash a leader,” referring to Netanyahu.
His description of Hezbollah as “very smart” was not considered a popular move either. “Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, the greatest state sponsor of terrorism, these are states and entities that are focused on wiping Israel off the face of the earth. That is neither smart nor good,” said New York Republican Rep. Mike Lawler last week.
On the other hand, the President’s response to the conflict has seen a minor increase in GOP approval. 49% of respondents in an ABC/Ipsos poll released on Sunday said the U.S. is doing “about the right amount” to support Israel, while around half of Republicans believed the country was doing “too little.” That may sound like a poor number, but Biden’s numbers are much worse on other issues such as gun violence or Iran – often in the single figures.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.