“When missiles are being shot into your country, I don’t know what ‘disproportionate force’ is supposed to mean,” Republican primary candidate Donald Trump told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
“Israel is being attacked to an extent that is very rarely seen, and so obviously you have to use very strong force,” said the real estate mogul, during a meeting with Jewish journalists at his Trump Tower office in Manhattan.
The GOP frontrunner was responding to a question about recent remarks made by Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during separate meetings with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. The former, after inflating the death-toll figures of innocent Palestinian civilians killed during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, accused Israel of using “disproportionate force;” the latter called Israeli settlements “unhelpful.”
With regard to the issue of settlements, Trump deferred to his executive vice president and chief legal officer Jason Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew whom he summoned from another part of the building to assist him on Israel-related matters.
In the meantime, Trump ripped into the media in general and one outlet in particular. “I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders,” he said to the some 25 mostly Orthodox journalists gathered in his conference room. “But I will say the Daily News did a big number on him. I have to tell you, [it] is a very dishonest newspaper… you can’t believe anything [it] has said… it’s one of the most dishonorable papers, of many dishonorable papers. Because, you know, a good percentage of them are not truthful… really can’t tell you what it said about Bernie Sanders. It’s covered me so inaccurately on so many different things.”
On the subject of the Middle East, Trump said, “If our elected officials went to the beach and didn’t do anything, the situation [there] would be a lot better off.” As for whether, in the event he becomes president, he would continue US economic aid to Israel, he answered in the affirmative, calling the Jewish state “one of our best allies anywhere.”
Where comments he had made in the past about brokering a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians – and about remaining “neutral” while doing so — were concerned, Trump elaborated, “A lot of people say that’s a deal that can’t be made, because there’s such ingrained hatred, perhaps especially from the Palestinian side. But that’s a decision that’s going to have to be made… [And] I wouldn’t want to be in a position to make that decision for Israel.”
Questioned about his canceling of a scheduled trip to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December, Trump stated, “He said some things I didn’t like; I did not particularly like his statements.”
Trump was referring to Netanyahu’s rejection of the controversial candidate’s proposed US travel ban for all Muslims, through a statement released in its wake. “The state of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world,” the statement said.
In response, Trump tweeted: “I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with @Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the US.”
However, Trump asserted to the gathered journalists, “I like [Netanyahu]. I’ve always liked him,” assuring that the disagreement would not affect the way he, if elected, would treat the Israeli leader in the future.