In Israel, Christie says Trump evaded progress in the Middle East and fueled intolerance | ET REALITY


Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who is challenging Donald J. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Trump’s rhetoric of bigotry, as evident today as it was during his presidency, had fueled the rise of intolerance that confronts Jews and Muslims. after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on October 7 and the fierce Israeli response in Gaza.

And Trump’s uneven adherence to the wishes of Israel’s right-wing government, while widely praised in Republican circles, only ensured the “low-hanging fruit” of Middle East diplomacy during his presidency, Christie said, denigrating one of the presidents of Israel. Trump’s main achievements in foreign policy.

He argued that Trump’s lack of “intellectual curiosity” and foreign policy ambition had led his administration to abandon the pursuit of a more elusive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Christie gave a scathing assessment of Trump’s Middle East policy in an interview while traveling to Israel on Sunday for what turned out to be an emotional one-day visit that toured a kibbutz, Kfar Azza, near Gaza, where 58 residents. massacred by Hamas terrorists last month. Christie watched raw footage of the attacks at a military base near Tel Aviv, commiserated with survivors and their families at a hospital and spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.

In the interview, Christie spoke about the Israel crisis (and the repercussions being felt around the world) from the perspective of a man who has known Trump well for years, advised him, and then turned on him.

Christie’s criticism of the former president’s record in the Middle East is significant. The peace agreements reached by Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, known collectively as the Abraham Accords, are widely seen as perhaps Trump’s most important diplomatic achievement. And Republicans have praised decisions such as moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

President Biden’s own diplomatic efforts to secure a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which were underway in earnest before the Gaza war broke out, were widely seen as building on Trump’s achievements.

Christie further praised Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza crisis, including his Oct. 18 visit to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He accused Trump of cynicism in his handling of the once broadly bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel and held him responsible for fractures over Israel within the Democratic Party.

Christie said that President Barack Obama’s policies had been perceived as favoring Israel’s enemies and that Trump had taken advantage of the political opening that was presented: he wholeheartedly embraced all the policies promoted by Israel’s conservative government, including the transfer of the embassy, ​​recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights, withdrawing from Obama’s agreement with Iran to moderate its nuclear ambitions and seeking regional peace agreements between Israel and the Persian Gulf states that isolated the Palestinians and marginalized their demands of political autonomy.

“I don’t think I have any principles on these issues,” Christie said. “I think it’s just that he saw a public opportunity that Obama presented and took advantage of it.”

Christie argued that Democratic voters, in turn, had reflexively opposed anything Trump accepted so wholeheartedly, including the election of representatives to Congress like Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whom they considered fierce opponents of Trump. . These new legislators from the Democratic left then opened an anti-Israel wing of the Democratic Party that is testing the alliance between the United States and Israel.

Meanwhile, he said, the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, once considered the holy grail of presidential diplomacy, was virtually forgotten.

“I don’t think he was prepared to address a very difficult, if not impossible, issue from a foreign policy point of view, right? And I don’t think he has any ambition,” Christie said. “I think he was looking for relatively direct and easy scores because his vision was always political.”

“If Chris Christie thinks that strengthening the US-Israel alliance, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, bringing peace to the Middle East with the Abraham Accords, and enacting laws to protect American Jews is an easy achievement, he is clearly living in a fantasy world that is not “rooted in reality,” said Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Christie was quick to say that he did not blame Trump for the bloody hostilities in Israel. The timing of the Hamas attack reflected broader geopolitical dynamics with Iran, Russia and China, she said.

But Christie’s immersion in the horrors of October 7 seemed evident in her shift in tone throughout the day.

Before arriving in Israel, he spoke of the difficult balancing act between the vital need for Israel to defend its territory and its people and concerns about the growing backlash around the world.

“We’ve been there after 9/11,” he said. “We understand the visceral need and the practical need to retaliate and degrade Hamas.”

“But let’s not have an exclusively short-term vision,” he advised. “And that’s complicated for someone like Netanyahu and the political position that he’s in right now, because, you know, there will certainly be a reckoning every time the war is considered over, about how Israel got there in first place”.

Christie later toured one of the kibbutzim hit hard by Hamas terrorists, saw bullet-riddled children’s homes and spoke with Simcha Greiniman, a volunteer who described a scene in which the charred remains of an entire family clung to each other. others: two children, their parents and grandmother, had to be separated.

He saw raw footage, displayed at a military base, recovered from cameras used by Hamas marauders and from victims’ smartphones before their deaths. He highlighted not only the carnage and terror but also the joy expressed by young terrorists exultant at their actions.

At the end of the day, Christie also spoke of putting any resumption of a Palestinian peace process “on the back burner.”

“Ultimately, it is what is best for Israel and what is best for the world. But I think the actions Hamas took on October 7 made that resolution significantly more difficult and longer-term. And I think that’s one of the real shames of their actions,” he said Sunday night.

In the interview, before arriving in Israel, Christie traced the rise in public expressions of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim prejudice since the war began, in part, to Trump’s often inflammatory rhetoric.

“I don’t think Trump is an anti-Semite,” even though he has routinely embraced stereotypes of Jews, Christie said. But, she added, Trump’s “intolerance toward everyone” is “what has contributed” to the growing bigotry.

“He says what he says, regardless of the fact that he is perceived as a leader and that his words matter,” Christie said. Fans “think you’re giving them permission to be fans,” she added, “and that’s even worse than them thinking you are.”

Trump has bristled at accusations that he is anti-Semitic, singling out his daughter Ivanka, a converted Jew, and his Jewish children.

Mr. Christie didn’t think much of that.

“It’s just him looking for a convenient way out that he thinks ends the conversation. He doesn’t want to have that conversation,” he said of Trump’s protest that he has Jewish grandchildren. “I don’t believe that at all in terms of a proof point about anything.”

Trump’s well-discussed habit of trotting out Jewish stereotypes: saying he only wanted “short guys who wear kippahs” counting their money, calling Jewish real estate executives “murderers,” and telling those at a conference meeting Republican Jewish Coalition who were all difficult negotiators, matches the stereotypes you have about Italian Americans, African Americans and Muslims, Christie said dismissively.

“I think he’s a 1960s kid from Queens, New York, with certain attitudes that he probably learned from his parents,” Christie said.

But he was less sympathetic to the intolerance he said Trump had unleashed.

“Their rhetoric contributes to it,” he said. “By his rhetoric I mean his intolerance towards everyone. “Everyone hears that dog whistle differently.”

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