But he also meandered among various topics, zig-zagging from the weekend terrorist attack in Israel that has captured the world’s attention to criticisms of his GOP rivals, crime in Washington, D.C., boasts about rising in the polls despite multiple indictments and even mentioned the assault on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul.
Throughout his speech, Trump, who leads his GOP presidential rivals, painted a picture of an alternate universe he thought would have existed had he been reelected in 2020 instead of President Joe Biden.
“Israel would be flourishing, they would have no problem,” he said. “Iran would have never played that game.”
Instead, he said, the world became full of “chaos, bloodshed, war, terror, death,” and he warned World War III was on the horizon. He called Biden “grossly incompetent,” and described members of the Biden administration as “stupid people.”
He also directly went after Netanyahu, who he asserted did not help the United States in the drone strike in 2020 that killed Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for secret military operations.
At the time of the killing, Netanyahu praised Trump for acting “swiftly, forcefully and decisively” but Trump on Wednesday chastised the Israeli prime minister.
“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down,” he said. “That was a very terrible thing.”
His disapproval of Netanyahu drew an immediate response from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is competing with Trump for the GOP nomination and posted on X that “it is absurd that anyone, much less someone running for President, would choose now to attack our friend and ally, Israel.”
The remarks, delivered to the Club 47 Trump fan club, were the first extensive comments Trump made on Israel after saying little about the topic during a campaign stop in New Hampshire Monday.
Since the attack on Israel on Saturday that has since broken out into war that threatens to destabilize the Middle East, more than 1,200 Israelis and over 1,100 militants and Palestinians have been killed. The State Department said 22 Americans were among those killed and 17 more haven’t been accounted for.
Biden has said the U.S. stands with Israel, and the White House plans to ask Congress to approve aid, though the exact request is still coming together. But Republicans running for present are casting the attack on Israel as a referendum on whether Biden can manage international conflict as he seeks to be reelected to a second term.
Trump didn’t use the word “Israel” until almost 20 minutes into his speech, after criticizing his 2024 GOP rivals and praising supporters in the convention center, including comedian Roseanne Barr and GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a close ally who recently led last week’s effort to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Calling himself the “best friend Israel has ever had in the White House,” Trump accused Biden of having “tossed Israel to the bloodthirsty Jihadists” when he lifted certain economic sanctions against Iran.
Like many other Republicans in the 2024 race, Trump also bashed Biden for authorizing the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of a prisoner-swap deal. The Biden administration has defended the decision, stressing that the funds already belonged to Iran, that they hadn’t been spent yet and that they were only allowed to be used for humanitarian reasons.
Trump called on Biden to freeze the funds and promised that if elected in 2024 that he would impose an “even stronger” version of his travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries, which included Iran. He vowed to “stand with Israel 100 percent as president.”
U.S. and Israeli officials have said they’re not sure yet whether Iran directly coordinated with Hamas in its attack on Israel over the weekend. But Iran voiced support for the attack and Tehran officials have provided military aid to Hamas.
Some members of the audience wore pro-Israel T-shirts and a couple of speakers stated their support for Israel when they got onstage.
Gaetz, who’d also been scheduled to speak but arrived late following the speakership battle in Washington, D.C., said he agreed with Trump’s assessment that the war in Israel wouldn’t have happened if he was still president.
“The Biden foreign policy is very paint-by-numbers,” he said. “It’s very predictable. And that at times can embolden our adversaries. President Trump was very unpredictable, and it kept everybody real polite.”