WASHINGTON — Two leading Jewish American groups denounced President Donald Trump this weekend for calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “Your prime minister” in front of a Jewish — not Israeli — audience.
Trump made the comment Saturday while speaking to the annual Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas. He also attacked the Democratic Party for allegedly supporting anti-Semitism.
The comment could be interpreted as a “dual loyalty” accusation against Jewish Americans, since it relates to Netanyahu as “their” leader — even though their actual leader is the president of the United States. The crowd at the RJC event didn’t protest the comment.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Sunday: “Mr. President, words matter. As with all elected officials, it's critical for you to avoid language that leads people to believe Jews aren’t loyal Americans.”
The American Jewish Committee also criticized Trump, tweeting: “Mr. President, the Prime Minister of Israel is the leader of his (or her) country, not ours. Statements to the contrary, from staunch friends or harsh critics, feed bigotry.”
Rep. Eliot Engel, the Jewish chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, quipped: "I somehow doubt the president would say 'Your Taoiseach' to a roomful of Irish-Americans."
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Michael Koplow, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, compared Trump’s statement to the comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar against AIPAC, which caused a political storm in the last two months. He wrote: “Just like some Democratic Congresswomen, President Trump believes and says straight out that American Jews’ primary allegiance is to Israel. That he says it in an admiring way versus saying it in an accusatory way doesn’t make it any better.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has made a direct connection between Israel and American Jews. He has referred to Israel as “your country” in front of Jewish audiences before.
In recent weeks, Trump has adopted a new line of attack against the Democrats, accusing the party of alleged anti-Semitism, mainly over the comments made by Omar. He repeated the accusation at his speech Saturday in front of the RJC crowd.
Among those in attendance was casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the largest single donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and also a staunch supporter of Netanyahu's.