Just a day after saying he would be "neutral" in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked President Barack Obama as "the worst thing that's ever happened to Israel."
Trump made the remarks during an interview with the Fox News Channel that aired Thursday.
"Israel is so important. What Obama has done to Israel is a disgrace. How they even talk to us is hard to believe. How do they talk to Obama? You know, I have friends who support Obama, I said, How do you do it? It’s almost like they do it out of habit. They agree he’s been terrible."
“You look at what he’s done to Israel, with just this Iran deal, which is such a terrible deal. He’s been the worst thing that’s ever happened to Israel," said Trump.
“Now, a lot of my friends that are Jewish do not support him any longer. But I still have some that do. I say, How can you do it? ...You know what? I think it’s habit. They do it out of habit.”
A day earlier, Trump said he would remain neutral when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, but cited Palestinian incitement as a factor in making the conflict intractable.
Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nod, was asked at a town hall meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of Saturday’s primary whether he would tackle Israeli-Palestinian peace.
He said he would give it “one hell of a shot,” although “it’s probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make.”
At the event hosted by MSNBC, Trump said the reason for the conflict’s intractability was the mutual hatred, although he appeared to say this was a bigger problem on the Palestinian side.
“You know, you have both sides, really, but one side in particular growing up learning that these are the worst people, these people are the worst people, etc. etc.,” he said. “I was with a very prominent Israeli the other day, he says it’s impossible because the other side has been trained from the time they’re children to hate Jewish people.”
Moderator Joe Scarborough pressed Trump to name who he believed was at fault, but the real estate magnate and reality TV star declined.
“If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you, and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved, we don’t want,’ let me sort of be a neutral guy,” Trump said. “I don’t want to say whose fault is it, I don’t think it helps.”
CNN simultaneously hosted town halls in the state with three Trump rivals for the Republican candidacy — Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. It will host Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday night.
In his town hall, Cruz reiterated his pledges to cancel the Iran nuclear deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers, and to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Ripping to shred the Iranian nuclear deal, and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem,” Cruz said, outlining what would be among his first acts as president. “Both of those are within the power of the president, but they’re also powerfully symbolic. You know, moving the embassy to Israel tells Israel, it tells all of our allies, it tells our enemies, America is back.”JTA contributed to this report.