Less than a week after the attack on Israel, former President Donald Trump delivered a speech that was primarily centered on foreign atrocities but infused with his trademark Trumpian style. Speaking to a gathering of over 3,500 supporters at a convention center in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump spoke for nearly two hours. He recounted his role in relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and took pride in signing the Abraham Accords, which formalized diplomatic relations between Israel the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
However, his speech took various detours, shifting from the recent terrorist attack in Israel to criticisms of his GOP competitors, concerns about crime in Washington, D.C., self-congratulatory remarks about his rising poll numbers despite facing multiple indictments, and even a mention of the assault on Paul, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Throughout his address, Trump, who leads the pack among GOP presidential candidates, painted a picture of an alternate reality that he believed would have existed had he been reelected in 2020 instead of President Joe Biden. He claimed that Israel would have prospered without any issues, and Iran wouldn’t have engaged in the same actions that transpired. Instead, he described the world as being plagued by “chaos, bloodshed, war, terror, death” and ominously predicted the possibility of World War III. He labeled Biden as “grossly incompetent” and derided members of the Biden administration as “stupid individuals.”
Trump also took a direct shot at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asserting that Netanyahu did not assist the United States in the 2020 drone strike that eliminated Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, responsible for covert military operations. At the time of Suleimani’s killing, Netanyahu had praised Trump for his swift and decisive action, but Trump criticized the Israeli prime minister during his speech, expressing his disappointment.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is vying with Trump for the GOP nomination, swiftly responded to Trump’s criticism of Netanyahu, stating that it was unreasonable for anyone, especially a presidential candidate, to attack Israel, a friend and ally, at this time.
These remarks were delivered to the Club 47 Trump fan club and marked Trump’s first extensive comments on Israel since a campaign stop in New Hampshire earlier that week, which occurred shortly after the attack on Israel.
Since the attack on Israel, which has escalated into a conflict with potential repercussions for the Middle East, over 1,200 Israelis and more than 1,100 militants and Palestinians have lost their lives. The State Department reported that 22 Americans were among the casualties, with 17 individuals still unaccounted for. President Biden has expressed his support for Israel, and his administration plans to seek aid from Congress, though the specific request is in the works. Meanwhile, Republicans running for president are framing the attack on Israel as a test of Biden’s ability to manage international conflicts as he seeks re-election.
Notably, Trump did not mention the word “Israel” until nearly 20 minutes into his speech, as he first critiqued his GOP rivals for the 2024 election and praised his supporters at the convention center, including comedian Roseanne Barr and GOP Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, a close ally who had recently led the effort to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Trump proclaimed himself to be “the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House” and accused Biden of abandoning Israel to “bloodthirsty Jihadists” by lifting certain economic sanctions against Iran. Like many other Republicans in the 2024 race, Trump criticized Biden for allowing the release of $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of a prisoner-swap deal. The Biden administration defended the decision, emphasizing that the funds already belonged to Iran, remained unspent, and were designated for humanitarian purposes.
Trump called on Biden to freeze these funds and pledged to impose an even more robust version of his travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, if elected in 2024. He asserted that he would stand firmly with Israel as president.
Although U.S. and Israeli officials are uncertain about direct coordination between Iran and Hamas in the recent attack on Israel, Iran expressed support for the assault, and Tehran officials supplied military assistance to Hamas.
A portion of the audience donned pro-Israel T-shirts, and some speakers expressed their support for Israel when they took the stage. Gaetz, who was also slated to speak but arrived late due to the speakership battle in Washington, D.C., concurred with Trump’s assessment that the conflict in Israel might not have occurred if Trump were still in office. Gaetz described Biden’s foreign policy as predictable and suggested that Trump’s unpredictability had maintained a degree of politeness among international actors.