Trump: Netanyahu deserves blame for Oct. 7; I had bad experiences with him; I’ll protect Israel

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Then-US president Donald Trump (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump's departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)
Then-US president Donald Trump (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Trump's departure to Rome at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, on May 23, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Flash90)

In a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, former US president and current GOP contender Donald Trump has harsh words for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for Israel’s war leadership, but pledges to “protect Israel” if re-elected in November.

October 7 “happened on his watch,” says Trump, adding that Netanyahu has rightfully been criticized for failing to prevent the Hamas attack.

“They have the most sophisticated equipment,” Trump says of Israel. “They had—everything was there to stop that. And a lot of people knew about it, you know, thousands and thousands of people knew about it, but Israel didn’t know about it, and I think he’s being blamed for that very strongly, being blamed.”

Trump also says that he had a “bad experience” with Netanyahu, accusing him of dropping out of the US operation to kill Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Qassam Soleimani in January 2020.

“All of a sudden, we were told that Israel was not doing it. And I was not happy about that. That was something I never forgot. And it showed me something.”

Asked if he thinks Netanyahu should quiet and whether he could work better with war cabinet minister and presumptive Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, Trump replies. “I think Benny Gantz is good, but I’m not prepared to say that… I haven’t spoken to him about it. But you have some very good people that I’ve gotten to know in Israel that could do a good job.”

October 7 wouldn’t have happened if he was in office, Trump argues. “It would have never happened,” he insists. “It would have never happened. You wouldn’t have had—Hamas had no money.”

“We had no terror… and we got rid of ISIS 100%. Now they’re starting to come back.”

Turning to the hostages, Trump surmises without offering evidence that “you have very few hostages left.”

“I don’t believe these people are able or even wanting to take care of people as negotiations,” he says, without explaining whether he is referring to Israeli or Hamas negotiators.

“I think the hostages are going to be far fewer than people think, which is a very sad thing.”

Trump also says that Israel has done public relations “very badly.”

“I don’t think that the Israel Defense Fund [sic] or any other group should be sending out pictures every night of buildings falling down and being bombed with possibly people in those buildings every single night, which is what they do,” says the 77-year-old business mogul.

Trump says that a two-state solution is now “much tougher to get,” and that fewer people back the idea.

He also cites the way Palestinian youth are educated: “Children grow up and they’re taught to hate Jewish people at a level that nobody thought was possible.”

Trump says that the Israeli public supports him overwhelmingly.

“There’s been no president that’s done what I’ve done in Israel,” Trump claims. “And it’s interesting. The people of Israel appreciate it. I have like a 98%—I have the highest approval numbers.”

“I have been very loyal to Israel, more loyal than any other president,” boasts the 45th US president. “I’ve done more for Israel than any other president. Yeah, I will protect Israel.”

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