Trump Ahead of AIPAC Speech: Israel Should Repay U.S. for Aid

'There are many countries that can pay, and they can pay big-league,' Republican frontrunner tells reporters, only to later attempt to reverse himself: 'They help us greatly.'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a press conference following his victory in the Florida state primary, West Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016.AFP

Hours before his AIPAC address on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that as president he would require Israel to pay back the United States for the foreign aid it received. 

Talking to reporters in Washington, Trump was asked about his previously stated stance that the U.S. should charge some of its allies for its assistance in their defense. "I want them to pay us some money," Trump said.

When asked specifically about Israel, the Republican frontrunner replied: "I think Israel would do that also. There are many countries that can pay, and they can pay big-league."

According to the Dallas Morning News, Trump reversed himself shortly after. "They help us greatly," he said in reference to Israel, talking to reporters during a tour of the Old Post Office, a historic building near the White House Trump turned into a hotel.

Before making these remarks, Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to The Hill, Trump has shied away from the question in the past, but his answer puts him in line with the GOP's stance. However, it represents a break from the long-standing U.S. policy. 

Trump has said on several occasions in the past that U.S. aid should come with a price tag. "If somebody attacks Japan, we have to immediately go and start World War III, okay? If we get attacked, Japan doesn't have to help us," Trump said at a campaign speech late last year. "Somehow, that doesn't sound so fair." He has said that as president, he will establish a safe zone in the Middle East and make the Gulf States pay for it, a similar statement to his promise to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, paid for by the U.S.'s southern neighbor. 

On Monday, addressing the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton derided Trump on his positions on Israel, saying that “walking away” from the Middle East was not an option for the United States.

The comment was an apparent dig at Trump who has made comments indicating that he would be neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He has also said, however, that he is a supporter of Israel.

“We need steady hands, not a president who says he is neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday,” the former secretary of state and front-runner for the Democratic presidential nod told the gathering of the pro-Israel lobby at its meeting in Washington.