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Why Didn't Donald Trump Condemn the Jerusalem Truck Attack?

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Yael Yekutiel's funeral, Jan 9, 2016
Yael Yekutiel's funeral, Jan 9, 2016Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

Israelis were deeply shaken by a terror attack on Sunday, when four soldiers were killed and 13 people were wounded after a truck rammed into pedestrians near the Armon Hanatziv Promenade.

The attack, which took place when the massive truck veered from its course along the promenade and rammed into a large group of soldiers on an educational trip to the city getting off a bus, was branded an ISIS-inspired event by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Reaction from Washington DC came quickly.  A White House statement said it “condemns in the strongest terms today's horrific terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Such cowardly acts can never be justified, and we call on all to send a clear and unequivocal message that terrorism must never be tolerated. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our hopes for quick and full recovery for those who were wounded."

The State Department said there was "absolutely no justification for these brutal and senseless attacks."

It added that the U.S. condemns "the glorification of terrorism now or at any time," and that "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the four Israeli soldiers who were killed, and we hope for a full and fast recovery of those injured."

Other international expressions of sympathy poured in throughout the day and continued on Monday as the four soldiers – one of whom, Erez Orbach, was an American citizen – were laid to rest .

In Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate was lit up with the colors of the Israeli flag as a show of solidarity.

By contrast, no reaction came from President-elect Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump never failed to quickly offer his condemnation and condolences to Israelis when terror attacks took place – usually coupled with a political message, like after an October attack in Jerusalem.

But Israel is still waiting for him to weigh in on Sunday’s attack.

To observers from Israel there was a worrisome contrast between the fact that he stayed silent when it came to the attack, and the quick and strong reaction he had  to actress Meryl Streep’s criticism of him at the Golden Globes Awards – which he immediately not only tweeted about on Saturday night, but took the time to call a New York Times reporter with his reaction.

Critics from both countries made the observation on Twitter. In Hebrew, Israeli television show host Guy Pines tweeted “All the local Trump fans who disgusted us with your talk of Hussein Obama, has Trump condemned the truck attack?” noting that Trump managed to find time only to condemn those attacking him like Streep.

It could be theorized that with the transition appointments dealing with the Middle East in place, the handling of such matters is being shifted off of Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and onto more conventional channels.

On Monday, the Republican National Committee's communications director  and future White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked on a phone call to reporters whether there was “any specific reason why the president-elect hasn't commented yet on the terror attack in Jerusalem yesterday.”

Spicer responded that “obviously, the president-elect has been monitoring the situation over in Israel and I will have further comment on that later today.”

Despite that promise, no comment or statement from Trump was forthcoming for the remainder of the day.

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