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Donald Trump Counters Criticism of ‘Neutral’ Stance on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Everything has already been said about Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination: that the GOP establishment is wary of him, that he intentionally makes provocative declarations, that he is nothing more than a passing fad and that he will ultimately fail. Yet, in the meantime, the billionaire businessman from New York has won three consecutive primaries/caucuses in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

How did this happen?

“First of all, I think that it happened because we had too many Republican candidates—17—and now there are fewer,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of Trump’s opponents in the GOP race, told me in Las Vegas. “The fact that there are fewer candidates makes victory possible for us. In a one-on-one race with Trump, I would win by 16 percent—I would get 56 percent of the vote versus 40 percent that would go to him. Donald has a broad floor with a low ceiling. He won’t get past 35–40 percent support and that means that 60–70 percent of the Republican voters don’t want him as the candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton in November. That is why one of the objectives of the primaries, besides selecting a nominee and eliminating the other candidates, is to have one-on-one debates, and I hope to face Trump in a one-on-one debate, which I will have to win.”

But the latest debate, held Feb. 25 in Houston, featured five candidates. Both Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) targeted Trump’s stated belief that he should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I’ve received…many of the greatest awards given by Israel. As president, however, there’s nothing that I would rather do [than] bring peace to Israel and its neighbors. I may not be successful in doing it. It’s probably the toughest negotiation of anywhere in the world, of any kind, OK? But, it doesn’t help if I start saying I’m very pro-Israel, very pro-Israel, more than anybody on this stage. It doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors [of Israel],” Trump said during the debate.

Countering Trump, Rubio argued that one “cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith. The Palestinian Authority has walked away from multiple efforts to make peace, very generous offers from the Israelis. Instead, here’s what the Palestinians do. They teach their 4-year-old children that killing Jews is a glorious thing…The bottom line is, a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, given the current makeup of the Palestinians, is not possible.’’

Cruz compared Trump’s so-called “neutral” stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the views of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Let me be clear, if I’m president, America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel,” Cruz said.

What is Trump’s response to such criticism? Before the Houston debate, but after he had already made similar remarks about a “neutral” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I sat down with him for the following interview.

Boaz Bismuth: Mr. Trump, yesterday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tried to question your support for Israel. How is his commitment to Israel stronger than yours?

Donald Trump: “My friendship with Israel is stronger than any other candidate’s. I want to make one thing clear: I want to strike a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It is what I aspire to do. Peace is possible, even if it is the most difficult agreement to achieve. As far as I understand, Israel is also interested in a peace deal. I’m not saying I’ll succeed, or even that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is within reach, but I want to try. But in order for an agreement to happen, the Palestinians need to show interest. It’s a little difficult to reach an agreement when the other side doesn’t really want to talk to you.

“Don’t get confused there in Israel: I am currently your biggest friend. My daughter is married to a Jew who is an enthusiastic Israel supporter, and I have taken part in many Israel Day Parades. My friendship with Israel is very strong.”

This week you spoke very negatively about the Iran nuclear deal. You even said that, in some cases, violating deals is permissible.

“This deal was the worst deal that Israel could have gotten. Think about it: Beyond the deal itself, Iran also received $150 billion. And to think that they signed that deal without discussing it with Israel! As far as I’m concerned, this deal is the worst thing that ever happened to Israel. There is a clause in it that stipulates protecting Iran’s nuclear facilities should they come under attack. You have to read it to believe it. It may very well be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t understand what it means, that America will attack Israel if Israel attacks Iran? That’s ridiculous.”

Many presidents have promised to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. What is your position on the issue?

“I can only say that I like the idea.”

I’ve been covering the US elections for many years now. The pundits said that you wouldn’t run, then they said that you would crash and burn, then they said that the voters wouldn’t vote the way they said they would in the polls. In reality, you are crushing everyone. Let’s play the pundit for a moment—explain the Trump phenomenon to me.

“The pundits misread the intense anger that exists in the US today. No one foresaw the anger of the American people—toward the administration, toward the bad deals that the US has signed, like the trade agreements and the Iran nuclear deal. What do you think? That the American people liked the deal? The deal with Iran is also one of the reasons for the great anger that exists in the US today. It was a terrible mistake. And look at the way the administration is handling the military: We are not winning any wars. America is not winning, and America always needs to win. It is important for America, and it is important for the world.

“President [Barack] Obama isn’t good. For Israel, he has been the worst president in history. Look at how frustrated Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu was every time he visited Washington. All of Netanyahu’s claims are correct; he is 100 percent right. Is this any way to treat our friends? I will make sure that changes.”

Am I speaking with the next president of the United States?

“There is still a long way to go, but we are on the right track. If I make it to the White House, you will have a true friend there.”

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Trump.


By Boaz Bismuth/Israel Hayom and JNS.org

This article is part of the exclusive distribution agreement between JNS.org and Israel Hayom.

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