Donald Trump, the U.S. billionaire currently seeking the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election, said Wednesday during a rally in Virginia that he plans to visit Israel "very soon."
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Trump, currently leading the polls among his Republican rivals, is expected on Thursday to address the Republican Jewish Coalition's presidential forum - the right-wing organization supported by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, considered among Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's greatest supporters in the U.S.
"Very soon I'm going to Israel," Trump said. "I'm going to be meeting with [Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu who’s a great guy...I love Israel and will support it whole-heartedly."
Trump noted that during Israel's 2013 elections, he filmed a video expressing his support for Netanyahu and the Likud party. “He’s a good man, he’s worked very hard, he has absolutely no support from President Obama — absolutely none."
The issue of U.S. support for Israel is considered a central issue for the Republican presidential primaries. Sheldon Adelson in particular decides which candidates to support based on their support for Israel. Nearly every Republican candidate hopes to secure Adelson's support, which includes his financial contributions of millions of dollars.
Trump has spoken several times on Israel over the past several months of his primary campaign. In August, amid the backdrop of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump said that Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "sold Israel out" during negotiations with Iran.
"You cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon while marching and calling 'death to America, death to Israel.' You cannot allow this," he said.
A month later, he expressed support for Israel's operations against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and criticized the State Department's classification of Israeli actions as "excessive force."
"Israel’s being hit from all sides," Trump said, adding that "if you look at this new deal, this horrible, one of the worst contracts ever negotiated, the Iran nuclear deal, I mean, how can Israel be happy with the United States?"
"They’re getting hit on in so many different ways," Trump continued. "So, I don’t blame [Netanyahu] for being unhappy with our president, or the United States. We’re not taking care of them. We’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing."