Trump says little on Gaza, and nothing about what he’d do differently

Moreover, Trump has faced no dissent within his party over his stance on Israel and Gaza.

Trump has enthusiastically consumed news about young progressives turning against Mr Biden over Israel. And his campaign and its allies plan to exploit that division to their advantage.

One idea under discussion among Trump allies as a way to drive the Palestinian wedge deeper into the Democratic Party is to run advertisements in heavily Muslim areas of Michigan that would thank Mr Biden for “standing with Israel,” according to two people briefed on the plans who weren’t authorised to discuss them publicly.

Mr Trump allies have gleefully deployed similarly underhanded tactics to suppress the Democratic vote in his two previous campaigns.

But the latest idea is especially audacious, given that Trump’s Middle East policy as president unapologetically and lopsidedly favoured Israel against the Palestinians.

He gave Mr Netanyahu nearly everything he wanted, including moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, reversing decades of US foreign policy and bucking the United Nations, while lashing the Palestinians with aid cuts and diplomatic punishments, before brokering accords among Israel and four Arab states.

Given Trump’s pro-Israel record, the Oct 7 attack would have seemed to present the opportunity to lean into his credentials by describing how he would deal with the crisis as president.

Instead, Trump’s initial instinct in the days immediately following the greatest single-day loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust was to use Israel’s national trauma to settle a personal score with Mr Netanyahu.

On Oct 11, Trump publicly attributed the Hamas invasion to Mr Netanyahu’s lack of preparation, praised the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as “very smart,” and piled on another even more gratuitous attack: claiming Mr Netanyahu had “let us down” during the Trump presidency by declining to participate in the January 2020 strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

What happened next, behind the scenes, seems to have left a lasting impression on Trump.

Close Trump advisers and allies described his public castigation of Mr Netanyahu as an unintended act of political self-harm – even if many privately shared some frustrations with the Israeli leader – and privately urged him to issue a statement making clear his support for Mr Netanyahu and for Israel’s right to defend itself, according to two people with direct knowledge of the outreach who insisted on anonymity to describe it.

One of those people was Mr David Friedman, Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, according to the people with knowledge of the outreach. Mr Friedman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Trump followed their recommendations. In the fallout from his remarks, Trump walked back his criticism, posting on social media that he stood with Mr Netanyahu and Israel.

And he proposed expanding his administration’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim nations to cover Palestinian refugees from Gaza.

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