With only 50 days until the U.S. presidential election, the Trump campaign held a special virtual event on Monday for U.S. citizens living in Israel. The event focused on instilling fear in them regarding the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, and reminding them of President Donald Trump’s record on Israel and Middle East policy.
Boris Epshteyn, an adviser on the Trump 2020 campaign who also worked on the 2016 effort and briefly served in his administration, warned that “Biden would move the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv,” reversing Trump’s decision late in 2017 to move it to Jerusalem. Biden, it should be noted, has said the exact opposite: On several occasions over the past two years, the Democratic nominee and former vice president has committed to keeping the embassy in Jerusalem. “Now that it’s done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv,” he told a group of supporters at a fundraiser last year.
Epshteyn also said Biden would “embolden Iran” by reviving the “terrible, terrible, terrible” nuclear deal that, he said, Trump wisely “ripped up” and thus “eliminated an existential threat” to Israel. Biden published an article on CNN over the weekend stating that as president, he would enter new negotiations with Iran and aim to reach a more comprehensive agreement that would also cover areas of concern that were left out of the 2015 deal.
Epshteyn referred to Trump as “the best friend to the State of Israel in the history of American presidents – and that includes Harry Truman,” who recognized the state in 1948.
He spoke about the accords that will be signed at the White House on Tuesday between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and said: “That’s what this president is – he achieves things for our greatest ally.”
He added: “Under the Trump administration, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be paramount. I am very worried and scared as to what would happen under a Biden administration.”
Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany who recently served as acting director of National Intelligence in the Trump cabinet – who also spoke at the “Trump and Israel” webinar run by the Tel Aviv International Salon, co-sponsored by Republicans Overseas Israel – concurred with Epshteyn on all his points.
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While President Trump has expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran in a second term, and even said that he would reach a deal with the regime in Tehran within weeks, Grenell assured the crowd that “we can trust the president would never sign something unless it was an absolute fantastic deal for America, Israel and our allies.”
Grenell said: “We are in a fight between Washington outsiders and insiders. We need a bull going through the china shop who is shattering the norms of ‘the Washington crowd,’ who want us to behave their way and follow their rules. And we can’t. Because it’s not helpful to the American people.”
Trump’s style of politics, he said, is what led to both the embassy move and the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.
“The president sat down with Jared [Kushner] and his team and said: ‘Let’s just try to do something completely different. Let’s go for it,’” Grenell said. “The Europeans weren’t totally happy, but they saw this was a commitment from the United States, that we were all in, and that we were very different. And so they reluctantly stayed silent, or they went along.”
Grenell said he believed that if Trump is reelected, the Palestinians will come around as well, as “more and more Arab countries” potentially develop relationships with Israel.
“The Palestinians are going to have very little choice but to play along, and that will only happen under four more years of Donald Trump. With Biden you will be able to go backwards.”
Epshteyn put a positive spin on a new poll that showed Biden receiving 67 percent of Jewish votes against Trump’s 30 percent in November.
“Biden is underperforming with Jewish-American voters compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and President Trump is going up,” he said. At the same time, he cast doubt on the poll’s reliability. “Those numbers are too low for President Trump and do not reflect where the president truly is in terms of how much support there is in the Jewish community in the United States and among Jewish-American voters living abroad.”
Epshteyn went on to charge that Biden’s director of outreach to the Jewish community was rejecting a debate with him. “I wonder why the Biden campaign would not want to talk about antisemitism and Israel issues versus the Trump administration,” Epshteyn said.