At pro-Trump Bash in Jerusalem, Pundits, Firebrands and the Donald - on Video

Trump and Mike Pence set to address private event on Wednesday, organized by Republicans Overseas Israel. Their message will be 'in line with what Trump showed in Gettysburg,' organizer promises.

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Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence stands with Donald Trump during a rally on October 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence stands with Donald Trump during a rally on October 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.Credit: Spencer Platt, Getty Images/AFP
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Donald Trump and Mike Pence will lay out their policies on Israel and the Middle East in taped video messages to be screened at an event organized by their Israeli supporters held outside the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Marc Zell, co-chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, told Haaretz Sunday that the messages would be “in line with what Trump showed in Gettysburg,” referring to a Saturday speech by the candidate that included charges of a “rigged” election, media bias, and threats to sue women coming forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. 

Trump and Pence's speeches to their Israeli supporters would also include declarations of opposition to recent UNESCO resolutions regarding Jerusalem’s holy places, Zell added. 

The theme of the event in Israel, set to be held at the Harp of David restaurant on October 26, would be “Strengthening Jerusalem.” Zell said the two Republican candidates would “make a clear statement that the Jewish ties of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, something that UNESCO decided to ignore and in a decision was tainted with anti-Semitism.” Trump and Pence, he said, would lay out in their short addresses, “what the position of the United States ought to be, that it stands beside Jerusalem, the people’s connection to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) and the Old City and the Walls.” 

The event will take place on the same day as a second UNESCO vote on the contentious resolution being advanced by the Palestinians on Jerusalem which, like the initial resolution passed on October 13, will omit any reference to the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and will describe the area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram al-Sharif as a place of Muslim importance alone.

At the upcoming Jerusalem gathering, in addition to the taped appearances by GOP presidential and vice presidential nominees, officials said that there is a possibility that a senior member of the Trump policy team will appear in person, but that the appearance is yet to be confirmed. 

Local speakers will include May Golan, a firebrand right-wing activist who advocates against asylum-seekers and other migrants living in South Tel Aviv, right-wing columnists from Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom Caroline Glick and Chaim Shine, as well as Yoram Sheftel, a criminal attorney who recently represented Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted for the firebombing murder of the Dawabshe family in the village of Duma. Sheftel is also a controversial right-wing media personality who has come under fire for using racist and violent language against Arabs and leftist Israelis. Musician Shuli Natan, famous for her rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” they said, is scheduled to perform. 

No elected Israeli officials or government representatives had been invited to attend other than a representative of Jerusalem municipality to “welcome” the attendees. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has declined the invitation, and a member of the city council is expected to attend to represent the city.

The event will be a private affair, limited to 150 attendees - primarily Republican volunteers and donors and the media, according to the organizers. 

Competing events?

Zell and Brot said their event had been misleadingly conflated with a pro-Trump public rally scheduled on the same day, designed to show a strong show of support for the Republican presidential nominee among Israelis. That effort, Zell said, was being organized by grassroots activists unaffiliated with the official Trump campaign and had been misleadingly conflated with his group’s event.

The rally was originally set to take place in Independence Park, but was then moved to the Western Wall. On October 20, it was announced on the event's Facebook page that “Here’s the news we’ve been waiting for! Donald Trump and Mike Pence will address the event on video! Confirm your attendance, this will be a historic event!” Excited Trump supporters posted to the page that they couldn’t wait for it to take place. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long!” one wrote.

But Zell disavowed any official connection between the Trump campaign and the event being publicized on Facebook and said the Trump and Pence speeches would only be screened at the private event. 

He said that if the Facebook activists are “having all these people come and congregate at the Kotel, we believe in free speech and the right to assemble, he can do that - but it’s not connected to our event. We don’t care one way or the other - the more people who come to support Jerusalem, the better. Bless them, come and have people come to their event, that’s great.” 

The 25-year-old organizing the public rally and running the pro-Trump Hebrew Facebook page “Trump White and Blue,” Nimrod Zuta, claimed that he had been working together “in cooperation” with Zell and the local Republican party on a October 26 event with Zell and Brot until last week, when he and the Israeli campaign for Trump “split.”

Zuta said he was still planning a Trump march and rally in Jerusalem on the 26, and was working with police for a permit before announcing the time and place. “They can have their event, we are going to have ours,” he said.

Zell also denied a Jerusalem Post report quoting “organizers of the event” as saying that the event had disappointingly “morphed” into an occasion aimed at “American evangelicals watching at home on Christian television networks.” No Christian network was exclusively authorized to either film or broadcast the event, he said, and all media outlets from Israel and overseas had been invited to cover it. 

The GOP organizers did confirm that the decision to hold the event at the Harp of David was made after scrapping an earlier venue, the Aish HaTorah Center, whose rooftop balcony offers a dramatic view directly overlooking the Western Wall Plaza, so as not to endanger its nonprofit status in the United States by hosting a political event. Other venues were also rejected for similar reasons.

Despite the gloomy predictions for Trump in U.S. polls, the Trump effort in Israel remains upbeat, said Brot, predicting that more than 75 percent of Americans voting in Israel would choose the Republican presidential ticket. 

“We are focused on doing our job, which is winning for Trump in Israel,” he said. 

The efforts of local Trump volunteers, he said, were currently in the process of shifting from voter registration to ensuring that those who had registered Republican would be casting their ballots for Trump and the rest of the Republican ticket in their state. 

He said that a final push would take place “in the last week of the campaign when we are going to launch a campaign asking Israelis to call their family and friends in the States, especially if they haven’t decided who to vote for, and especially in swing states like Ohio and Florida,” asking them to cast their ballots for Trump on Israel’s behalf.

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