Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday that he believes US President Barack Obama hates Israel, citing the recent nuclear deal with Iran which he said was “so bad” for the Jewish state.
“So many friends in Israel, they don’t know what happened,” he said of the agreement between Tehran and the US, along with other world powers. “They actually think Obama hates Israel. I think he does.”
Speaking during a campaign speech in Reno, Nevada on, the business magnate added: “Honestly, I think Israel is in such a massive amount of trouble because of the agreement.”
Trump vowed to defend Israel if elected president. “Israel is safe with this one,” he said, pointing to himself. “Nothing bad is going to happen to Israel.”
Trump, a brash billionaire businessman, dominated the Republican field for months. Recently he has been losing ground to neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Neither Trump nor Carson are career politicians but both have capitalized on anti-Washington, anti-establishment feeling among many conservatives.
Israeli leadership has sharply criticized the Iran deal, and the issue had served to further fracture relations between Jerusalem and Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have enraged Obama by trying to turn Congress against the deal behind the president’s back. Meanwhile the US’s handling of the nuclear negotiations, the Palestinian conflict and other regional challenges have greatly diminished Israelis’ trust in the American leader, with many seeing him as weak, naive, or both.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon this week declared the dispute over the accord over. “The Iran deal is a given,” he said in Washington while meeting with his US counterpart Ashton Carter. “Our disputes are over. And now we have to look to the future.”
Netanyahu is to be hosted by Obama at the White House on November 9 — their first face-to-face talks in over a year.
Though generally unpopular in Israel, some security experts — including former heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad — have said it has its good aspects. Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has said he sees the benefits of the accord, which he has acknowledged will probably put off a nuclear-armed Iran for at least 10-15 years. The diplomatic effort, he said, probably prevented war from breaking out.
The Republican nominee will most likely face Hillary Rodham Clinton, former first lady and secretary of state in the 2016 presidential race. The overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, her campaign received a boost from a strong debate performance two weeks ago.
AP contributed to this report.