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Former President Donald Trump has come under fire for allegedly praising Iran-backed extremist group Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) amid the ongoing war against Hamas. Various media outlets and those supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have lambasted the former president for supposedly saying nice things about the murderous organization.
But there’s a huge problem here: Trump never actually praised Hezbollah.
During a rally in Florida, Trump commented on the war that broke out in Israel a week ago when Hamas launched a surprise attack. During his remarks, he discussed how President Joe Biden’s team was discussing the war and expressing publicly that they hoped Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, would not attack Israel from the north while it is fighting Hamas in the south.
Then two nights ago, I read all of Biden’s security people…National Defense people. They said, ‘Gee, I hope Hezbollah doesn’t attack from the north because that’s the most vulnerable spot.’ I said, Wait a minute. Hezbollah is very smart. They’re all very smart. The press doesn’t like when they say it. I said that President Xi of China, 1.4 billion people, he controls it with an iron fist. I said, He’s a very smart man. They killed me the next day. I said, ‘he was smart.’ What am I going to say? But Hezbollah, they’re very smart. They have a national defense minister or somebody saying, ‘I hope Hezbollah, doesn’t attack us from the north.’ The following morning, they attacked.
Trump also chided Israel’s National Defense Minister, who also expressed concerns about a Hezbollah attack from the north. “But if you listen to this jerk, you would attack from the north. Because he said, ‘That’s our weak spot.’”
The DeSantis War Room account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, posted a snippet of the video, accusing Trump of praising Hezbollah and referring to his comments as “disgusting.”
DeSantis also weighed in on a post on X, saying that it is “absurd” that “someone running for President, would choose now to attack our friend and ally, Israel, much less praise Hezbollah terrorists as ‘very smart.’”
The reality that some don’t want to acknowledge is that Hezbollah’s leadership is not made up of dummies. Trump’s comments about Gallant and Netanyahu notwithstanding, he was simply pointing out a grim reality: Those leading the terrorist group are cunning and “smart.”
Hezbollah has been responsible for many horrendous acts of violence. The group orchestrated the 1983 U.S. embassy bombing in Beirut, which killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. It was also behind the Marine barracks bombing in the same year, which resulted in the deaths of 241 members of the Armed Forces. The organization’s legacy of atrocities is well-documented.
In light of this, it is appropriate to acknowledge that the evil people running this group are “smart.” They would not pose a threat if they had low-IQ people in charge, and recognizing this is simply noting that Hezbollah is a danger to Israel and Western nations, not “praising” them. Indeed, many horrible people have been classified as intelligent or smart. When police officers noted Ted Bundy’s intelligence, they were not praising the serial killer; they were only stating a fact.
Still, Israeli leaders didn’t appreciate Trump’s comments. Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi slammed Trump’s comments about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the former president accused of “letting him down.”
Karhi told Israel’s Channel 13 that it is “shameful that a man like that, a former US president, abets propaganda and disseminates things that wound the spirit of Israel’s fighters and its citizens.”
“We don’t have to bother with him and the nonsense he spouts,” Karhi says. Asked if Trump’s comments make it clear that he can’t be relied on, Karhi replies, “Obviously.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also responded to Trump, who also referred to him as a “jerk” during the speech. He said the former president was making “far-fetched speculation” and that he is confident in Israel’s ability to “hurt all our enemies, as it is doing now against Hamas in Gaza.”
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for President Biden, issued a statement on Thursday.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a Thursday statement that what Trump said about Hezbollah was “dangerous and unhinged.”
“It’s completely lost on us why any American would ever praise an Iran-backed terrorist organization as ‘smart.’ … This is a time for all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel against ‘unadulterated evil,'” Bates said.
Other Republican leaders, along with Democrats, have lambasted Trump as well:
“Look, Hezbollah are not smart,” Mr. Pence said on Thursday. “They’re evil, OK.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat who is a national advisory board member for President Biden’s re-election campaign, slammed Mr. Trump in a statement on Thursday.
“No true friend of Israel, the Jewish people or of peace would praise Hezbollah just days after what President Biden and Jewish leaders have called the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust,” Mr. Pritzker said.
The notion that Trump respects or favors Hezbollah is demonstrably false. When he was in office, he led a concerted effort to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS), an organization that has much in common with Hezbollah and Hamas. The former president was one of Israel’s staunchest allies as well. Remember the Abraham Accords? In the end, attempting to cast Trump as an admirer of Hezbollah doesn’t sound like a winning tactic that will win people over. But this is what politics looks like today.