Former President Donald Trump said Sunday that neither the Hamas attack against Israel, nor the Russian invasion of Ukraine, would have happened were he still president.
“THE HORRIBLE ATTACK ON ISRAEL, MUCH LIKE THE ATTACK ON UKRAINE, WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WERE PRESIDENT – ZERO CHANCE!” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post.
Trump made the post just one days after Hamas launched a multi-pronged attack against Israel, in which Israeli civilians were killed, maimed, and taken hostage. Trump’s comments are consistent with previous boasts that his administration helped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu through supporting Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Speaking at a campaign event on Saturday, Trump said that Hamas’s attacks were the result of the US being perceived as “weak and ineffective.”
“The Israeli attack was made because we are perceived as being weak and ineffective and with a really weak leader,” Trump said.
Trump’s claims, that the Israeli and Ukraine attacks would not have happened on his watch, are dubious. Ini fact, Trump’s administration may have increased the likelihood of the attacks.
Donald Trump the antagonizer
Trump’s support of Israel was hardly noteworthy; Israel is one of the US’s closest allies and, perennially, one of the largest benefactors of US foreign aid. US support of Israel is often criticized as unconditional and superfluous, now that Israel has cemented itself as a regional power – indeed, MENA’s only nuclear power. And US support is often criticized as overly antagonistic. So, arguably, Trump’s stance of being more involved, more overtly supportive of Israel, could have potentially antagonized Hamas. Trump’s support of Israel, i.e., recognizing Israel’s claims to the Golan Heights, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, etc., inflamed tensions in the region. As The Washington Post reported contemporaneously, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was indeed considered a risk to inflame regional tensions at the time – which is why US policy had been, for years, to keep the embassy out of Jerusalem.
Similarly, Trump took a notably aggressive approach towards Russia. And yes, the mainstream media criticized Trump for being soft on Russia, suggesting he was perhaps a Russian puppet, but the policy choices Trump made in office were actually rather antagonistic. Trump consistently strengthened sanctions against Russia; he opposed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; he approved anti-tank missiles to Ukraine; he increased troop levels in Eastern Europe; and so on. The result was a Russia that felt cornered and threatened.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting Trump is to blame for Hamas’s attacks on Israel (or singularly to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). Israeli-Palestinian interactions, decades of history, normalization of Israeli relations (with UAE, almost with KSA), Iranian interference – all played a significant role in Hamas’s decision to launch their attack now.
And while Trump would have dictated US policy towards Israel had he won a second term, and surely, US policy towards Israel is a contributing factor, I’m skeptical of Trump’s categorical claim that Hamas would not have attacked were he in office. The point is moot, however. Hamas did attack.
Now the question is: how will Israel, and the US, respond? Fortunately Trump is not in office to dictate the US response, which will require a sophisticated touch.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.