Donald Trump has always had a close but uneasy relationship with Jews that is not confined to his son-in-law Jared Kushner. When Trump appeared at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in 2019, for example, he referred to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister.” Now that prime minister has incurred Trump’s wrath.
On Tuesday at a rally in South Palm Beach Trump declared that Netanyahu was “not prepared” for the assault by Hamas on Israel. Netanyahu, he said, got cold feet about joining in the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was offed in Iraq in a drone strike on January 3, 2020. For good measure, Trump added that Hezbollah was “very smart.”
For Netanyahu, who tried to curry favor with Trump during his presidency, the barbed comments from Trump are another sign that his grasp on power has become more than a little tenuous. Trump, as he has repeatedly said, likes winners. He clearly sees Netanyahu as something else, namely, a loser.
Trump’s nasty comments triggered a predictable backlash in America and Israel. Israeli communications minister Shlomo Karhi said that it was “shameful that a man like that, a former US president, abets propaganda and disseminates things that wound the spirit of Israel’s fighters and its citizens.” The White House was more succinct, calling Trump’s remarks “dangerous and unhinged.” That they were. Israel, confronted with a barbaric massacre, hardly needs to be reminded that it let its guard down. Netanyahu has in effect been demoted as he shares power in a unity government with former army general Benny Gantz, his main political rival in recent years.
But Trump can be counted upon with metronomic regularity to lash out petulantly during a crisis. Or any time for that matter. As Israel grapples with its predicament in the Gaza strip, however, Trump’s asides underscore that he not only shouldn’t be allowed to become commander-in-chief again but that he should never have occupied the position in the first place. During a second term, Trump would make Dr. Strangelove look like the soul of sanity. Ukraine, Taiwan and the Middle East would all be subject to his whims. Trump is the reverse of President Joe Biden — an ill-wisher whose only lodestar is puffing and preening about his sagacity. Why would anyone entrust a man who can turn on America’s allies and friends as capriciously as Trump with another four years in the Oval Office?