At a time when Donald Trump is losing friends and allies and business partners by the droves, he’s making a point of telling the world how much he loves and supports Israel - contrasting himself with President Obama, whom he called “one of the worst things that’s happened” to the Jewish State.
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In the midst of the relentless backlash over his remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants - "they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists" - the flamboyant businessman and celebrity gave an ebullient interview to a Jewish news outlet in which he is asserting that he is the sole true supporter of Israel in the 2016 presidential field - quite a declaration when nearly all 13 (and counting) GOP hopefuls are falling all over each other professing affection for Israel and denouncing Obama’s policies and his treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” he told JNS.org. “ The rest of them are all talk, no action. They’re politicians. I’ve been loyal to Israel from the day I was born. My father, Fred Trump, was loyal to Israel before me. The only one that’s going to give Israel the kind of support it needs is Donald Trump.”
And if he was the best thing for Israel, the current U.S. president, he charged “is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to Israel. I think he’s set back [Israeli] relations with the United States terribly, and for people and friends of mine who are Jewish, I don’t know how they can support President Obama. He has been very bad for Israel.”
That statement was downright mild compared to a previous Trump declaration back in November that “there has never been a greater enemy to Israel than Barack Obama.”
To illustrate his pro-Israel bona fides, during the interview, Trump went to the wall of his office and began reading out the text on various plaques he had received from Jewish organizations, reminisced about serving as the grand marshal for the Israel parade in New York City and noted he had given Netanyahu a celebrity video endorsement in his 2013 election campaign. (Trump claimed that he had been “at the time the only ad done by a celebrity” (this would doubtless make Netanyahu-supporting action movie star Chuck Norris pretty angry).
Trump also mentioned his daughter Ivanka, who converted to marry Orthodox Jew Jared Kushner in 2009 and how her Shabbat observance means that “from Friday evening on through Saturday night, she won’t take phone calls.” He said that if he became president, he would “double-up” and “triple-up” sanctions with Iran who are “just toying with us” in nuclear talks and that the U.S. has “a bunch of babies negotiating” with the Iranians. “We don’t have good negotiators. They have great negotiators, and they’re making us look like fools.”
He also praised the country’s business savvy. “I know so many people from Israel. I have so many friends in Israel. First of all, the Israelis are great businesspeople. They have a natural instinct for business and their start-ups are fantastic.”
The interview was conducted before it became clear that there is at least one Israeli businessman towards whom he’s not feeling quite so warm and fuzzy - Haim Saban, the Israeli billionaire, Hillary Clinton backer, and principal owner of Univision, the company Trump has just slapped with a $500 million lawsuit for cancelling its plans to air the Miss USA pageant, and allegedly defaming him.
The whole affair, Trump charges rather wildly in his lawsuit, is “a thinly veiled attempt” by Univision and Saban to “suppress Mr. Trump’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment as he begins to campaign for the nation’s presidency.” Trump also claimed that Saban’s company lobbied the NBC network to sever their ties with Trump and his show “The Apprentice” as well as refusing to air his pageants.
While it was certainly flattering of Trump to make the effort to extend his hand of friendship to Israel (and Jewish voters) as he kicked off his presidential campaign, it was a lovebomb that Israelis could surely have lived without. Let’s face it - Israel has enough of a popularity problem in the U.S. these days without being the BFF of one of the most reviled men in America.