“American Jews don’t love Israel enough,” Donald Trump declared this week, bemoaning his small share of the U.S. Jewish vote.
In an interview with the Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox weekly Ami published on Wednesday, the former U.S. President boasted of what he characterized as his foreign policy accomplishments, musing that had American Jews been more attached to Israel, they would have supported him in greater numbers.
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“You know what really surprises me? I did the (Golan) Heights, I did Jerusalem and I did Iran — the Iran deal was a disaster right? And I also did many other things,” he said, referring to his decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem and his withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough,” he continued, noting that he was excluding the Orthodox community in this criticism, whose support for him was “very high. I believe we got 25 percent of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense. It just seems strange to me.”
Trump’s comments elicited immediate criticism on social media, with Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, calling it an “anti-Semitic trope to assume that allegiance to Netanyahu defines my ethnic, political, cultural, religious, or political identity.”
“I am a proud American Jew and I won’t let anyone define the extent of my love for Israel by my belligerence towards others,” he tweeted.
This was not the first time that Trump has made comments suggesting that American Jews were insufficiently supportive of him or Israel.
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In August 2019, he declared that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” without specifying to whom these Jews were being supposedly disloyal: to the United States, to Israel or to him as president.
Several days later, in a series of tweets, he quoted praise from a conservative radio host who referred to him as the “King of Israel,” claiming that the “Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”
In December 2019, Trump used almost the same language when he told attendees at the annual conference of the Israeli-American Council that "you have people that are Jewish people that are great people, they don’t love Israel enough, you know that."
According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, American Jews were much more likely than their Christian counterparts to express criticism of his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 42 percent agreeing with the statement that the then-president was favoring Israelis too much.
According to a Gallup poll released earlier that year, about half of American Jews identified as Democrats.
Following the 2020 presidential election, a poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition found that 30.5 percent of Jews voted for Trump, while a competing poll commissioned by the liberal group J Street found that 77 percent of Jewish Americans voted for Biden and only 21 percent for Trump.
“Trump pushed the Jewish vote further to the Democrats,” the group’s pollster wrote in a memo summarizing the results.
JTA contributed to this report.