Israel was not mentioned once in the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but it was not forgotten.
Donald Trump tried to revive his discredited birther campaign by inviting Barack Obama's estranged half brother, Malik Obama, to sit with the Trump family at the debate. Malik, a Muslim, backs Trump and apparently is a Hamas supporter, judging by a picture posted on Twitter and in the Times of Israel. He was close to the late Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi and holds his half-brother and Clinton responsible for the dictator's removal.
A major pillar of Trump's campaign is isolationism and protectionism.
He wants to tear up or rewrite trade agreements with foreign powers, which he said had been negotiated by "political hacks" in prior administrations.
He hit hardest at the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because it was negotiated by the Bill Clinton administration.
He is especially critical of deals in which we import more than we export to those countries. An inviting Trump target could be the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement; it was the first FTA entered into by the United States, three decades ago by the Reagan administration. In 2015, the U.S. had a nearly $11 billion trade deficit with Israel, which could draw Trump's wrath.
His debate performance was widely considered disastrous, particularly his refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the November 8 election, and all the independent polls showed Clinton the clear winner in the final encounter.
Many observers say it is possible that Clinton could set a record for Jewish votes. The high – 90 percent — is shared by Lyndon B. Johnson (1964) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940 and 1944). John F. Kennedy got 82 percent against Richard Nixon in 1960. More recently, Barack Obama, Al Gore and Bill Clinton have been in the 78-80 percent range.
Many Republican Jews are sitting on the sidelines this time.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) hasn't even endorsed Trump, although its biggest backer, Sheldon Adelson, has. However, Adelson reportedly is contributing only a fraction of the $100 million he pledged.
Adelson's newspaper, Israel Today, is enthusiastic about the GOP nominee. The top story on Thursday's web page is "Trump: We're doing well, despite the media bias." Apparently that bias doesn't extend to the Adelson-owned media in Las Vegas and Israel. (Incidentally, a record number of historically Republican American papers have endorsed Clinton.)
In what Israel Today called an exclusive interview hours before the debate, writers Boaz Bismuth and Amos Regev quoted Trump saying, "The Clintons are very bad for Israel. … How anybody who loves Israel can support Hillary Clinton or Obama is beyond me."
In non-Trumpian reality, however, Bill Clinton was extremely popular in Israel throughout his presidency and remains very well liked. A recent poll for the Israel Democracy Institute showed Israelis prefer Clinton over Trump by a 43-26 percent margin.
RJC machers were insulted by Trump earlier this year when they invited him to their candidates' forum—known as the Adelson primary – and the New York real estate developer insulted them by calling them hondlers who couldn't buy him because he didn't need their money. He wouldn't tell them whether he thought Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel's capital, a position he has since changed as he sidled up to Adelson.
More recently many Jews are alarmed by his coziness with the alt-right white supremacists and his large following among anti-Semites. He recently told an audience, "Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plan the destruction of global sovereignty," something that sounded like it came straight out of the Protocols of Elders of Zion.