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Ben-Gvir swipes at Biden: ‘Would’ve been better with Trump’

“If Trump was in power, the U.S. conduct would be completely different,” the national security minister said.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, May 21, 2023. Source: X.
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, May 21, 2023. Source: X.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir leveled criticism at U.S. President Joe Biden in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying Donald Trump would have been better for Israel during the current Gaza war.

“Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel [to Gaza], which goes to Hamas,” said Ben-Gvir. “If Trump was in power, the U.S. conduct would be completely different.”

His comments drew sharp criticism from Israeli political leaders. Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition and the Yesh Atid Party, tweeted, “The interview Ben-Gvir gave to the Wall Street Journal is a direct attack on Israel’s international standing, a direct attack on the war effort, harms the security of Israel and mostly proves that he doesn’t understand anything about foreign diplomacy.”

Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz, chairman of the National Unity Party, tweeted that “disagreements are permissible, even with our biggest and most important ally, but it should come in the relevant forums and not in irresponsible comments in the media, which harm the strategic interests of the State of Israel, the security of the country and the war efforts at this time.

“The Prime Minister should call to order the Minister for National Security, who instead of dealing with internal security issues, is causing tremendous damage to Israel’s foreign relations,” he added.

However, Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, whom the Journal described as having a “knack for making headlines,” has tapped into growing Israeli discontent with U.S. pressure on Israel to supply humanitarian aid to Gazans even as Hamas continues to hold 136 Israelis hostage in abysmal conditions.

Mirit Hoffman, the English language spokeswoman for “Mothers of IDF Combat Soldiers,” representing a group of 7,000 women whose sons are in the military, told JNS she doesn’t understand why the United States government continues to put so much pressure on Israel to provide aid. 

“If the U.S. and everybody else is so worried about the aid getting to the civilians in Gaza—most of them by the way supported Hamas—they should ensure a better way of getting it there,” she said.

For two weeks, protesters have gathered at the Kerem Shalom border crossing to try to stop trucks carrying supplies into Gaza. Demonstrators haven’t been deterred by the IDF declaring the crossing a closed military zone.

Protesters have also started blocking trucks at the port of Ashdod. Riki Rosenblatt, a resident of Shoham, speaking for the protesters, told Channel 14 on Sunday that protesters are inspecting trucks leaving the port, and if it’s evident that they’re heading to Gaza, they don’t get through. “That’s our contribution,” she said.

The protesters, many of whom are relatives of hostages held by Hamas or of IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, say that food, water and fuel are stolen by Hamas once they arrive inside the Strip.

60% stolen

Ronen Bar, head of the Israeli Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said Hamas diverts at least 60% of the goods entering the Strip for its own purposes, Channel 12 reported on Jan. 31.

Nevertheless, the U.S. continues to pressure Israel to allow food, fuel and medicine into Gaza. Israel briefly resisted the request for fuel but caved under ongoing pressure.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is bucking decades of U.S. foreign policy by considering a plan to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, despite deep opposition to the move within Israel.

And on Thursday, Biden issued an executive order sanctioning Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria whom he said had engaged in violence.

The administration named four Israelis specifically, blocking them from entering the U.S.

“These actors and these actions pose a grave threat to peace, security and stability in the West Bank, Israel and the Middle East region, and they also obstruct the realization of ultimately an independent Palestinian state, existing side by side with the State of Israel,” a senior Biden official said.  

“Israel acts against all Israelis who break the law, everywhere,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded. “Exceptional measures are unnecessary.”

The U.S. also pushed back on Israel’s insistence that UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, was riddled with Hamas operatives.

“[W]e need to get other U.N. agencies and other aid agencies replacing UNRWA if we’re going to solve the problem of Gaza as we intend to do,” Netanyahu told U.N. envoys on Jan. 31.

The New York Times reported on Jan. 28 that 12 UNRWA staff members took part in the Oct. 7 massacre.

However, White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Jan. 29 said that while the allegations should be investigated, they shouldn’t taint the whole organization.

“I haven’t seen any information that affirmatively makes that case, that it’s more than that 13 [sic],” Kirby said. “That’s why an investigation is so dang important here so that you can look at the scope of the problem set.

“But you’ve got 13,000 UNRWA employees. You have 13,000 of them in Gaza alone, and as I said last week, let’s not impugn the good work of a whole agency because of the potential bad actions here by a small number,” he said.

The Trump administration had eliminated U.S. funding to UNRWA, arguing it perpetuated the Palestinian refugee crisis rather than solve it. Biden reinstated the funding a few months after taking office.

According to a Feb. 1 Wall Street Journal report, the Biden White House’s moves stem from frustration with the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, the displacement of Gazans from their homes, “and the lack of a road map for ending the fighting.”

Unwilling to stop weapons sales to Israel, the Biden administration has looked for other “points of leverage to express American displeasure,” the paper said.

Among possible acts of retaliation debated by U.S. officials was the imposition of visa restrictions on Ben-Gvir and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for supporting Jewish resettlement of the Gaza Strip and calling on voluntary migration of Palestinians living there, the Journal reported.

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