Former premier Ehud Barak on Saturday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not standing up to US President Donald Trump amid his criticism of Democrats over Israel, saying the need to maintain bipartisan support was a vital Israeli strategic interest.
“Netanyahu capitulates to Trump like a puppy and not like a statesman,” Barak said at a cultural event in the central town of Shoham.
His comments come as Trump has accused Democratic lawmakers of not standing up for Israel and lashed out at freshman congresswomen Ilhan Omar (Democrat-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Democrat-Michigan).
Israel last week barred Tlaib and Omar from entering the country due to their support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with the announcement reportedly coming after pressure from Trump.
The decision to ban Omar and Tlaib was roundly criticized by Democrats and leading US Jewish groups after Israel initially appeared to indicate the two would be allowed in, prompting Trump to charge that American Jews who vote Democrat display “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Israeli officials have not commented publicly on the remark, though President Reuven Rivlin stressed in a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) on Wednesday that US-Israel ties were not dependent on any one party.
“I think this is an unnecessary, damaging statement,” Barak said of Trump’s remarks.
Barak, who is running in the upcoming Israeli elections with the left-wing Democratic Camp, lamented what he termed the government’s “automatic” backing for all of Trump’s comments and its lack of “bravery to say that our relations are with all parts of American society, with both parties.”
He also noted power would eventually change hands between Republicans and Democrats.”
“There they switch presidents every eight years,” Barak said. “It goes from party to party. Even Trump won’t be there forever.”
In his conversation with Pelosi, Rivlin did not directly address Trump’s comments, but said he made the call “against the backdrop of recent events,” according to his office.
“The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party,” a statement from the president quoted him saying.
Critics have accused Trump of employing an anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty and on Wednesday the US president seemed to clarify who he thought Jews were being “disloyal” to when they vote Democrat.
“If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he was quoted as saying by reporters at the White House.
Trump has repeatedly voiced his frustration over his unpopularity among American Jews, despite his close support for Israel and his steps to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
Indeed, more than 75 percent of American Jews voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, according to exit polls. That marked a four percentage point increase from the percentage of Jewish voters (71%) who pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.