Trump interview lacks clarity on Israel

Exclusive report from Israel Hayom


During our exclusive interview with former President Donald Trump — which took place at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida — he repeatedly said he was the most pro-Israel president ever and will continue to be if elected, but he also voiced criticism of the Jewish state.

We asked questions. Trump answered, in his way. He uses words like “incompetent,” “stupid,” “dumb,” “Biden is the worst president ever,” and so on. People his age (77) have long stopped speaking like that. But to the American public, or at least half of it, this style resonates.

And yet, it’s one thing to see such statements on a television screen, and quite another to hear them face-to-face from a former president sitting across from you. Trump also did not hesitate to jump between subjects in contexts that were not always clear mid-conversation.

And then there was this: Trump chose to speak about Israel’s war only in general terms. He refrained from saying anything that would box him in about it.

When we asked, “Do you agree with Israel’s goal of completely destroying Hamas?” — he responded that “only a fool or a crazy person would have not responded the way you did,” adding that if he had been in the Oval Office, the war would not have broken out on Oct. 7.

But when we tried to elicit a clear statement from him about an Israeli victory or the destruction of Hamas, he used his own way. “You have to finish up your war. To finish it up. You gotta get it done. And, I am sure you will do that. And we gotta get to peace, we can’t have this going on.”

Unlike President Biden, Trump, at least in his conversation with us, refrained from explicitly stating that “Hamas must be defeated.”

Q: If you get re-elected, and the war might still be ongoing, how will you act?

“There has been no president better to Israel than me. Because of [recognition by the US of Israeli sovereignty over] the Golan Heights, the Abraham Accords. If Obama did the Abraham Accords, you would have gotten 15 Nobel Peace prizes. I got nothing.

“I’ve been loyal to Israel, I’ve been the best president in history by a factor of 10 to Israel, because of all the things I do. The embassy in Jerusalem being the capital, is the best location for the embassy and getting the embassy built. The biggest thing I did was the Iran nuclear deal. I ended it. The problem is that Biden didn’t do anything with it.”

Q: What should be done now with Iran, now that they are so close to the bomb? 

“Well, I don’t want to tell you that. Because I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell you, but I don’t think you can allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don’t think it’s my position right now to be telling you that but I would tell you this — I was very strong on Iran not having a nuclear weapon to a point where they … literally had no money.”

He then went on to say that “Iran is 35 days away from having a nuclear weapon because of the incompetence of Biden.”

Q: They will not have a nuclear bomb if you are president?

“They will never have a nuclear weapon, no. They can have a nuclear weapon in 35 days. I have seven months to go [to Election Day], and nine months to take office. A lot of bad things can happen in that period. That’s a lot. That’s like an eternity. Seven months in this world, and especially in the Middle East, where it’s so combative, and so combustible, that’s a long period of time, so many bad things can happen. And also, so many good things can happen. If we had a real president, if we had a president that knew what he was doing, who could put two sentences together, that could get solved very quickly.”

Q: Who will you appoint  as your running mate?

“Who would you like?”

Q: We want him or her to be a supporter of Israel.

“You’ll have an Israel supporter, that I promise you. Anybody that’s vice president for me, will be an Israel supporter. You don’t have an Israel supporter right now, you do know that. Kamala Harris is not a supporter of Israel. She’s the opposite. And Biden is not a supporter of Israel. … She supports the enemy, but he supports the enemy too.”

Trump believes he was the best president Israel has ever had but feels he deserves more credit. 

“It’s not really reciprocal, because you know, I only got 26% of the [Jewish] vote. The first time in 2016 I got 25%. And the next time I got 26%. And the second time was more concerning because of [all the gestures towards Israel].

“How a Jewish person in the United States can vote Democrat or can vote Biden is hard to believe, it’s almost as though they’ve never read a story. They’ve never picked up a newspaper or looked at a news desk. … He has abandoned Israel. And he sees those marches in Illinois, and he sees those marches in Michigan and all these different marches that they see with the Palestinians. And he is absolutely not for Israel.

“And [Sen. Chuck] Schumer is not for Israel. Schumer’s a Jewish guy who is not for Israel. What he did the other day with talking, you lose your spirit. And it’s not a question of Bibi Netanyahu. What he did is he said, ‘We want to break this thing up.’ It’s such a bad thing. You lose your guts, you lose your spirit, and it’s hysterical — I mean, we have a lot of people like Schumer, a lot of people.

“Look at the New York Times. It’s a Jewish family. I think they hate Israel. I watch what they write in the New York Times, it’s hysterical. Now the conservative Jews love Trump, I would get the highest marks I would get, I would beat anybody [with them]. They love Trump, I think they are great, and they love Israel.”

Trump clearly defines who is an enemy and who is a friend. And yet, people may have forgotten that he did not give Israel everything it wanted. One had to negotiate with him over construction in Judea and Samaria and convince him of the necessity of every move on the agenda. He was never a pushover, and since then he has accumulated personal resentment towards [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and has questioned Israel’s conduct since the outbreak of the war. Throughout the interview, it was impossible to miss what he sees as Israel’s declining share price.

“You don’t have the support you used to have. Some 15 years ago, Israel had the strongest lobby. If you were a politician, you couldn’t say anything bad about Israel, that would be like the end of your political career. Today, it’s almost the opposite. So Israel has to get better with the promotional and with the public relations because right now they’re really being hurt very badly. I think in a public relations sense.

“I think Israel made a very big mistake. I wanted to call [Israel] and say don’t do it. These photos and shots. I mean, moving shots of bombs being dropped into buildings in Gaza. And I said, Oh, that’s a terrible portrait. It’s a very bad picture for the world. The world is seeing this …every night, I would watch buildings pour down on people. It would say it was given by the Defense Ministry, and said whoever’s providing that that’s a bad image.”

Q: But terrorists are hiding in those buildings.

“Go and do what you have to do. But you don’t do that. And I think that’s one of the reasons that there has been a lot of kickback. If people didn’t see that, every single night I’d watch and every single one of those. … And I think Israel wanted to show that it’s tough, but sometimes you shouldn’t be doing that. …

“Israel has to be very careful because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support — you have to finish up, you have to get the job done. And you have to get on to peace, to get on to a normal life for Israel, and for everybody else.”

If there is one thing Trump understands, it’s business, public relations, and the connection between them. This is how he became one of the most famous people in America, and then, president. Whether he returns to office or not, his assessments should be read as a warning sign.

The conversation ended, and Shabbat was approaching. The Stars and Stripes flag flew in the background. Passersby stopped at the estate’s gate to take pictures, pose for photos, or shout supportive calls to the former president, who of course could not hear them.

The man who had just devoted 45 minutes of his time to us will return to the presidency on Jan. 20, or perhaps not. With his captivating personality, the deeds done and attributed to him, his unique style, and no less important, the issues he placed on the international agenda, he has already left his mark on history. A significant part of this legacy directly deals with Israel, despite not feeling reciprocity, as he told us.

Trump also taught us how a conversation with an American president is conducted, and also equipped us as Israelis with plenty of food for thought about the war and its next steps.