As he prepares to welcome his friend Bibi Netanyahu to the White House next week, Donald Trump couldn’t resist firing a zinger at the prime minister, who is in a fight for his political survival.
Trump told a group of wealthy Republican donors at his Mar-a-Lago resort two weeks ago that he could easily beat Netanyahu on his own turf in a head-to-head battle. The president said he’d get 98 percent of the vote, according to three people at the Republican National Committee fundraiser.
Axios reported that three people at the dinner said Trump boasted Israelis love him, apparently more than they love their own leaders. He went on to tell his audience that he has done so much for Israel he couldn’t understand why any Jew could vote for a Democrat.
“The Democrats hate Jewish people,” he told his audience, a theme he has returned to in recent weeks as he sought to weaponize support for Israel to drive a wedge between the two parties. Expanding on the theme, he charged Democrats are not only “anti-Israel” but “anti-Jewish” as well.
The facts, as is often the case with Trump, don’t support his boasts.
There are 36 Jews in the 116th Congress, including nine in the Senate; all but two representatives are Democrats. Jews also consistently vote Democratic as well, 79 percent in last November’s congressional election, up from 71 percent in 2016, and recent polls show that is not about to change, notwithstanding Trump’s forecasts.
He still hasn’t uttered a word of criticism of the most racist member of Congress, nine-term Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, or others in the GOP like Alabama’s Mo Brooks and Texas’ Louie Gohmert.
By comparison, Trump gleefully latched on to the anti-Semitic comments of a freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), ignoring her subsequent apologies, and statements critical of Israel by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The pair are the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
Trump declared them proof that “The Democrats hate the Jewish people.”
Trump himself has accused Jews of dual loyalty as well.
Speaking to Jewish guests a White House Chanukah party last December Trump referred to Israel as “your country” twice, reported the Forward, which called his remarks a “classic anti-Semitic canard.”
Trump is popular in Israel, more so than in any other of America’s friends and allies, but not that popular.
Trump’s boasts about his popularity in Israel may be another of his exaggerations, but the Jewish state is one of the few American allies where Trump is actually well liked.
But what makes him popular in Israel is part of what makes him unpopular among American Jews.
Democrats, particularly Jews, are increasingly critical of Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which is dominated by ultra-nationalists and religious extremists, and his tight embrace of Trump and Republicans, particularly the religious right. His hate campaign targeting Barack Obama didn’t win him any Democratic friends, either.
Netanyahu’s alliance with extremist groups like Otsma Yehudi, called the Israeli version of the KKK, further widens the gap with most American Jews and Democrats. It is not a matter of being anti-Israel but anti the policies of this Israeli government.
Sounding Trumpian, Netanyahu declared Israel “is not a country of all its citizens,” but is “the nation-state of the Jewish nation — and its alone.”
President Reuven Rivlin denounced labeling Israel’s Arab population second class citizens as “entirely unacceptable.”
Jews voted Democratic 71-24 in 2016 and after two years of Trump that went to 79-17. Trump’s 2020 budget could widen that gap despite – or because of –Trump’s accusing Democrats of being anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.
Trump will continue to attack Democrats as “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel,
and Republicans will try to exploit the issue with a lot of help from Reps. Omar and Tlaib. He may not seriously expect to win over many Jewish voters but it’s the money of deep pocket donors he’s really after, and many already travel in Republican circles.
Republicans, particularly Trump, don’t seem to understand that Jews are not single-issue voters. Many years of polling have consistently shown Israel is somewhere in the middle of their top ten priority list. One reason is, despite all of Trump’s bloviating, most Jews consider both parties to be reliable friends of Israel and they make their decisions on other issues.
The real differences between the two parties are spelled out clearly in Trump’s 2020 budget and its damage to Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, health, education, the environment, natural resources and much more of the American social fabric. That document shows why Jews like the Democratic Party and will continue to call it home.
Don’t look for this to be on the men when they dine at the White House Tuesday evening. The main course will be their upcoming elections, with a heaping serving of how-to-win advice from the man who Tuesday bragged – falsely – he’d won “one of the greatest elections of all time in American history.” Get out the Pepto Bismol.