On Israel, Trump Pledges High and Gives Nothing

A final request to Jewish Republicans who continue to take comfort in Trump's much-touted 'pro-Israel' credentials: Take a long, hard look at his record of false promises.

Donald Trump supporters listen to a recorded message at a Jerusalem rally, October 26, 2016.
Ammar Awad, Reuters

On Friday night, comedian Bill Maher delivered a first on his HBO TV show “Real Time”—and not his much lobbied interview with President Barack Obama. 

No, the real shocker was this: He got serious.

“The shit just got real,” the usually sarcastic, liberal comedian said in an alarmingly serious tone, reacting to news that a politicized faction of the FBI had conspired with Russian hackers and the Trump campaign to interfere with our elections. “We attacked your boy Bush like he was the end of the world, but he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney [too]. They were honorable men whom we disagreed with. And we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.”

From Auschwitz memes to financial conspiracies 

Setting When Bill Maher apologizes for crying wolf, it’s time for the rest of us to wake up. If Maher fears for the apocalypse, it’s only fitting that we focus on Israel, the setting for the Biblical end of days. In that spirit, I’m done comparing Trump's rhetoric and tactics to Hitler’s slogans, strategies and speeches and showing the Pepe the Frog and Auschwitz memes I've received that still shock my most jaded friends.

I’m glad my mother, a Holocaust survivor, is no longer around to see any of this. Though she was a staunch supporter of Israel and a proud Republican, even she would haven’t been able to look the other way after the “Access Hollywood” tape, his mocking of disabled people, his calling for women to be “punished” if they have abortions, and his refusal to distance himself from neo Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan, whose newspaper just endorsed him. She would have not have been happy to see his wrap-up campaign commercial, which none too subtly conflates Washington corruption with Jewish money. 

Donald Trump supporters listen to a recorded message at a Jerusalem rally, October 26, 2016.
Ammar Awad, Reuters

Let’s focus on Israel, as my mom would have said. She died a week after the Oslo Peace Accords were signed. “This will be the end of Israel,” she stated grimly as she watched Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stand alongside PLO leader Yasser Arafat, straining to keep her head up. She was so wracked with pain, she was already on a morphine drip, and I can’t say that didn’t color her doomsday outlook. Suffice it to say, Hillary wouldn’t have been her first choice for president had she been alive today. And yet she would have come around when, to paraphrase Maher, the shit got real. Those mob cries of “lock her up” alone would have jolted her. 

So I’m calling on you—those who are as hawkish as my mom once was or who trust him because he has an Orthodox Jewish daughter and son in law – to indulge me. You still think he’s the best choice for Israel? Let’s look at his actual record, then decide.

'Very, very pro-Israel': cheap words, false promises 

Though he claims to be “very, very pro-Israel,” the master dealmaker has never invested a shekel in Israel, has barely visited the Holy Land and canceled his much-touted trip earlier this year. His purported plans of erecting a Tel Aviv Trump Tower at the site of the old Elite chocolate factory in Ramat Gan went bust, and when it did, he sued Israeli company, Crescent Heights, which purchased and was to develop the property and offered Trump 25% of profits from net sales in exchange for leasing the Trump name. Trump lost. His plans of building a sprawling Trump Hotel in Netanya also fell flat. He never bid on the land. And what of his much hyped “world class” golf course in Ashkelon? You guessed it—another false promise. 

Trump claimed he would be “neutral” regarding negotiating peace between Israel and Palestinians, but his many conflicting business interests in the Arab world would prohibit that. Though he loves to talk tough about Muslims, the bankrupt billionaire has been indebted to Arab tycoons for years and still pursues their business. In fact, just a month before he declared his presidency, daughter Ivanka was quoted in “Hotelier Middle East” as saying that the Trump Organization was actively seeking business opportunities in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Two decades ago  a consortium of investors, led by Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal Abdulaziz al Saud, bailed him out of financial ruin when was unable to pay the remainder of his interest in the Plaza Hotel. Some of them withdrew their support of Trump after he vowed to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., according to CBS News.

Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., March 21, 2016.
Saul Loeb, AFP

Judging from Trump’s extensive Arab world business interests, his call to reappraise our NATO alliances and his opaque relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, which the U.S. government has confirmed is behind the hacking of the DNC, it’s safe to say Trump would hardly be an honest and earnest broker on Israel’s behalf. 

And his latest position paper, released last week by his Israel advisors to woo the American Jewish vote in swing states like Florida, reads like the work of a desperado in his final hour. He promises to hold Iran to the terms of the nuclear agreement but provides no plan of how exactly he would enforce that. He claims he would stop the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions movement on American college campuses but is apparently unaware of the democratic principles of free speech. He promises to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which once again would compromise his business interests in the Arab world, which so far he hasn’t addressed should he become president.

'No evidence of the donation' 

Though he says evidence of his support for Israel is his generosity to Israeli causes, including the Israeli Defense Forces, the facts don’t support the claim. A “Washington Post” investigation into 400 organizations Trump says he’s donated to reveals that he’s fallen short here, too. Tellingly, his highly publicized 2007 pledge of $250,000 to the American Friends of the IDF was never fulfilled. Instead, an unnamed “friend” covered for him. In fact, not only has Donald never given to Israel, he said that Israel should pay the U.S. back for its previous defense aid, ahead of the AIPAC talks in March. Though he was grand marshal of the Israel Day Parade in New York in 2004, he never made a donation, which has since become a requirement to be eligible for the honor.

He speaks of his generosity to Jewish causes, but records paint a different picture. The Jewish newspaper “Algemeiner” honored him with their Liberty Award, but he never donated a penny in return, according to the “Washington Post.” Similarly, his purported gift of $56,000 to the ADL since the 1970s, most of it supposedly given in 2014 at a dinner honoring “Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett and his wife, also resulted in “no evidence of the donation,” per the Washington Post,  which also disputes his claims that he made good of his pledge of $100,000 to United Hatzalah, $40,000 to the UJA, and on and on.

Donald Trump addresses the Republican Jewish Convention in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2015.

There are other examples, but I don’t need any further proof that Trump is not the kind of ally Israel can rely on. As my mom would have said: “With friends like that” But go ahead. Cast your own vote. And may the best woman win.

Marisa Fox-Bevilacqua is a New York based freelance writer and editor who has written for the New York Times, Haaretz, Elle, and is working on a book and documentary about her mother’s hidden Holocaust past called By A Thread. Follow her on Twitter: @MarisaFox