In damage control, Trump says he was Israel's best friend

Trump said privately calling for Netanyahu to be ‘impeached’ over Hamas assault

Ex-president asking aides if he should go public with stance; revelation comes as he’s already under fire for knocking Israel, praising Hezbollah at campaign rally

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Republican presidential candidate former US president Donald Trump gestures after speaking Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Republican presidential candidate former US president Donald Trump gestures after speaking Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Former US president Donald Trump has privately been calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be “impeached” for failing to anticipate the massive Hamas onslaught, according to a Thursday report.

The stance has been advocated in calls Trump has held with several pro-Israel, Republican allies who have asked the former president and current GOP presidential frontrunner how he would handle the current Israel-Hamas war, Rolling Stone magazine said, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

Trump has proposed capturing and extraditing Hamas figures along with cutting off all US humanitarian aid to the Palestinians (in both the West Bank and Gaza, as he did when he was president), Rolling Stone said

In most of the conversations, though, Trump has focused on his distaste for Netanyahu, whom he has never forgiven for congratulating US President Joe Biden after he won the 2020 election.

Trump has expressed his desire for Netanyahu to be out of office by the time he hopes to be back in the White House as president in 2025, according to the report.

Also in these conversations with pro-Israel, Republican allies, Trump has likened the “very weak” Netanyahu to the majority of American Jews who voted for Biden in the previous election.

Trump, who was twice impeached himself, has asked multiple close aides whether he should begin publicly calling for Netanyahu’s ouster but has thus far been told that doing so would not be appropriate while Israel is still counting the dead from the massive Hamas assault.

On Friday, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said the Rolling Stone report was “100% untrue” and “never happened.”

“These unnamed “sources” are simply making this up out of thin air. This is the most egregious example of Fake News,” Cheung wrote on X.

The Rolling Stone report came as Trump was already under fire from Israel, Biden and even Republican rivals over comments he made at a campaign rally on Wednesday criticizing Jerusalem over the intelligence failure that led to the Hamas assault, calling Defense Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk” and the Hezbollah terror group “very smart.”

Trump made the comments while recalling his administration’s 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.

Trump reiterated his claim that Netanyahu backed out at the last minute from actively taking part in the killing.

“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing. We were very disappointed, but we did the job ourselves, and it was absolute precision, magnificent, beautiful job,” he said. “Then Bibi tried to take credit for it. That didn’t make me feel too good. But that’s all right.”

Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But communications minister Shlomo Karhi told Israel’s Channel 13 that it is “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.”

In an apparent attempt at damage control after his remarks gained lots of attention in Israel and the US, Trump’s campaign issued a statement declaring, “There was no better friend or ally of Israel than President Donald J. Trump.”

Biden’s “weakness and incompetence has empowered and emboldened our enemies all over the World, and now, many lives have been so needlessly lost,” the statement said.

His campaign issued an additional statement listing all of the steps Trump took as president to support Israel.

Earlier Thursday, Biden went after Trump over the latter’s comments on Israel.

“Our nation’s support for Israel is resolute and unwavering,” read a tweet from Biden’s X account, which links to a clip from Trump’s campaign rally. “The right time to praise the terrorists who seek to destroy them is never.”

Unlike the former president, who regularly used the platform to attack rivals and send unfiltered messages to the public, Biden is widely understood to not be personally operating his own social media account.

From left, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Unity head Benny Gantz at a press conference on October 11, 2023, announcing Israel’s national emergency government. (screen capture: PMO)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running in a distant second place behind Trump in the race for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, also took aim at his rival.

“It is absurd that anyone, much less someone running for President, would choose now to attack our friend and ally, Israel, much less praise Hezbollah terrorists as ‘very smart,'” he posted on X.

Trump is generally treated with a hands-off approach by his leading Republican opponents, who are fearful of alienating his loyal base. But his criticism of Israel, so soon after the unprecedented attack, underscores the extent to which the man most likely to take on President Joe Biden next year is driven by personal enmity and resentment toward those who rejected his lies about winning the 2020 election.

Trump’s comments stood in sharp contrast to the full-throated support given to Israel by Biden and his officials, who have expressed steadfast backing of the country as it reels from the brutal massacres committed by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza border communities over the weekend.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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