Minister-without-portfolio and National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz, opposition leader and centrist Yesh Atid party chairman MK Yair Lapid, Labor chairwoman MK Merav Michaeli, and other Israeli politicians blasted National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir’s comment to The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that former US president Donald Trump would have been more beneficial to Israel in its current war against Hamas than current US President Joe Biden.
In the WSJ interview, Ben-Gvir said, “Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with humanitarian aid and fuel [to Gaza], which goes to Hamas. If Trump was in power, the US conduct would be completely different.”
“It’s okay to disagree, even with our largest and most important ally, but we must act in the relevant forums and not via irresponsible comments in the media, that harm Israel’s strategic relations, national security, and the war effort at this time,” Gantz wrote on X.
“The prime minister needs to reprimand the national security minister, who, instead of taking care of internal security issues – is causing enormous damage to Israel’s foreign relations,” Gantz added.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to members of Israel’s Special Patrol Unit in Tel Aviv on August 2, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Lapid: Ben-Gvir’s statement is “a direct blow to Israel’s international status”
Lapid said in a statement, “Ben-Gvir’s interview to The Wall Street Journal is a direct blow to Israel’s international status, a direct blow to the war effort, is damaging to Israeli security, and mainly proves that he understands nothing about foreign relations. I would call on the prime minister to reign him in, but Netanyahu has no control over the extremists in his government.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s government meeting, “There are those who say ‘yes’ to everything in places where they must say ‘no.’ They receive applause from the international community but endanger our national security. And there are those who say ‘no’ to everything, receive applause at home, but they too jeopardize vital interests.”
Netanyahu added, “I would like to tell you something from my experience: The trick is to know how to navigate – to say ‘yes’ when possible, and to say ‘no’ when necessary. I don’t need help to know how to navigate our relations with the US and the international community while standing by our national interests.”
Meirav Michaeli wrote on X, “What Netanyahu did against Obama and against Biden under the guise of leadership, Ben Gvir is doing under the guise of brattishness. Both are part of the ruin that Netanyahu has brought and continues to bring upon Israel since he and Ben Gvir incited against Rabin, and even now they are inciting against Biden.”
The Labor leader later called on Netanyahu to fire Ben-Gvir.
“Minister Ben Gvir’s blatant and deliberate intervention in the American election campaign is a grievous strategic blow,” Michaeli wrote on X. “If Netanyahu does not fire Ben Gvir, it is tantamount to unreservedly endorsing his remarks. No one anywhere will believe that a government minister would dare to make such harmful and even ungrateful remarks without having the backing of the prime minister of Israel.
In an apparent attempt to counter Ben-Gvir, Shas chairman and war cabinet member MK Aryeh Deri wrote on X, “Thank you, President of the United States Joe Biden. The people of Israel will forever remember you for standing with Israel during some of our toughest hours. You and America are kingdoms of kindness. Even among friends and allies, there are differences of opinion. You are willing and paying a personal and political price to help us, and for that, we will always be grateful. May God protect you and America.”
The chair of Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party, Yitzhak Kreuzer, later dismissed the backlash, saying “I suggest to my colleagues in the opposition to calm down. Relations with our American friends are steel-clad.”
Kreuzer went on to highlight historical disagreements between Israeli and American figures, italicizing that these previous disagreements did not undermine the Israeli-American relationship.
“Over the years, countless differences of opinion have surfaced with the American government on security issues and policy,” Kreuzer said, going on to highlight past disagreements between leaders including Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter, Ariel Sharon and George Bush Jr., Richard Nixon and Golda Meir, and Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama.