Trump: Some U.S. Jews 'Don't Love Israel Enough'

International law doesn't prohibit West Bank settlements; if Kushner can't obtain Israeli-Palestinian deal then 'it can't be done,' Trump says at Adelson-backed summit

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
Miami
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 Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit on December 7, 2019.
Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit on December 7, 2019.Credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
Miami

MIAMI — Some American Jews "don't love Israel enough," U.S. President Donald Trump said as he addressed some 4,000 Israelis and American Jews at the annual conference of the Israeli-American Council in Florida on Saturday. 

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"We have to get the people of our country, of this country to love Israel more, because you have people that are Jewish people that are great people, they don’t love Israel enough, you know that," he said. 

Trump also said that international law does not prohibit Israeli settlements in the West Bank, echoing a comment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during the speech, which was punctuated by cheers and chants of "four more years" from the audience.

The president also praised his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, saying he had been told that there was no more difficult deal to make than Israeli-Palestinian peace, but that "if Jared Kushner can't do it, it can't be done."

Israel "suffered very much under the last administration," Trump asserted in a criticism of predecessor Barack Obama.

Boasting of Washington's decision to halt funding for the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying the families of convicted terrorists, Trump slammed "radical Islamic terrorism" before moving on to his claim that he successfully destroyed ISIS and rebuilt the U.S. military. 

"The Jewish state has never had a better friend in the White House than your president, Donald J. Trump," the president said earlier in his speech. "Unlike other politicians, I kept my promises."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was indicted in three corruption cases last month and has failed to secure a majority for the right-wing religious bloc after Israel's September election, was not mentioned during the speech.

Referring to his administration's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the president said that he "heard there was going to be massive violence" over the move. "They showed violence because about 20 people were violent in the front row, but there was no one behind them, so CNN had the cameras very low, pointing to the sky," he said, referring to the ceremony marking the decision. 

On the day the U.S. inaugurated its own embassy in Jerusalem, 60 Palestinians were killed during Gaza border protests in the bloodiest day of clashes with the Israeli army since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.

Trump claimed that U.S. Jews “have to vote for me, you have no choice.” Taking a swipe at Senator Elizabeth Warren by using his racially charged nickname for her, he said: “You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that.”

Trump continued, claiming that the audience had a financial incentive to vote for him: “You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax. Let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don’t like me – and some of you don’t, some of you I don’t like at all actually – and you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.”

Donald Trump stands on stage with Sheldon Adelson ahead of his address to the Israeli American Council National Summit on December 7, 2019.
Donald Trump stands on stage with Sheldon Adelson ahead of his address to the Israeli American Council National Summit on December 7, 2019.Credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

Adelson-funded and non-political

The president, who is running for re-election in 2020, delivered his keynote address on the third night of the conference, themed “Israel Together," although the organization describes itself as “non-political." 

During Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, he spoke at the annual gathering of AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington.

But since taking office, Trump has rarely appeared before Jewish organizations. He last spoke at the the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas in April. The RJC, the leading Jewish group affiliated with the Republican Party, is also funded by Adelson.

The IAC, established in 2007, aims to “build an engaged and united Israeli-American community that strengthens the Israeli and Jewish identity of our next generation, the American Jewish community, and the bond between the peoples of the United States and the State of Israel."

It was originally founded by several prominent Israeli businessmen living in the United States as a nonpartisan organization. In recent years, however, Jewish-American billionaires Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have become the organization's leading donor, with IAC shifting to focus more on political issues.

Hipster Herzl: A billboard for act.il, an IAC / IDC Herzliya initiative to promote Israel on social media, at the Celebrate Israel Parade in NYC, June 4, 2017
Hipster Herzl: A billboard for act.il, an IAC / IDC Herzliya initiative to promote Israel on social media, at the Celebrate Israel Parade in NYC, June 4, 2017Credit: Alexi Rosenfeld

Speaking before Trump, Miriam Adelson said the president had delivered where other U.S. presidents had made mere promises. The Adelsons reportedly donated tens of millions of dollars to GOP candidates in 2016, making them the party's major donor.

“I’m not in politics, IAC is not in politics,” co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet told Haaretz before the speech. “I can tell you that our organization, from its leadership and layer after layer is absolutely not political.”

Despite not wanting "to deal with American politics at all,” Nicolet said it was “an honor” for the group to host Trump. 

“Every organization, that wants to have any influence, you have to talk to the people who have influence, there is no way around it,” he said. “Our aspiration has always been to get to the people with the most influence.”  

Nicolet added that for the president to come speak to a “young 12-year-old organization of immigrants, I think that’s something of significance not just for us but for the entire Jewish community.” 

The summit addressed anti-Semitism, Jewish Diaspora in the U.S., the future of Zionism, Israeli innovation, the impact of intersectionality — a critical theory lens that examines the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, and how they overlap as interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage — on the American Jewish community, and the relationship between Israelis and American Jews.

Other speakers at the event included politicians, diplomats, entrepreneurs and American and Israeli celebrities. Among them were Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan; Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog; Likud lawmaker - and Netanyahu rival - Gideon Sa'ar; Democratic Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and 2018 Israeli Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai.  

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