U.S. President Donald Trump sparked controversy during a speech Saturday in which he said there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough. He added that his Jewish audience should “be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes” with 2020 Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax.
Trump was speaking at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida where he argued that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Vox journalist Aaron Rupar noted, “Multiple levels of bigotry in one comment. It’s totally disgusting and people have become numb to it.” While author Elad Nehorai argued, “This is Trump 100% referring back to his calling liberal Jews “disloyal,” but not saying the word. And he’s getting cheered by other Jews. Disgusting.”
Far-right pundit Ann Coulter argued Trump didn’t go far enough writing, “Could we start slowly by getting them to like America?”
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
“You have to vote for me, you have no choice,” Trump said. “You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that,” referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in a dig at her claiming Native American ancestry.
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“You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax,” he went on. “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.”
Trump continued, “A lot of you are in the real estate business. I know you very well, you’re brutal realtors.”
Journalist Sam Sokol pointed out, “This is not the first time Trump has been accused of anti-Semitism for linking Jews to money. In 2015, Trump... told the @RJC that ‘you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.’”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of U.S. policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.
The president introduced his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has played a leading role in helping the administration craft its Mideast peace plan.
A self-described deal-maker, Trump said he had long been told that achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be the hardest deal of all.
But ″ïf Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done,” Trump said.
The White House has said its Mideast peace plan is complete and had promised to release it after Israeli elections in September. The long-delayed plan remains under wraps, and Israel appears headed for its third round of elections this year.
The plan also is facing rejection by Palestinian officials, who object to the pro-Israel leanings of the Trump administration.
During his speech, Trump also name-dropped Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., criticizing her for supporting the “BDS” movement against Israel: boycott, divest and sanction. In August, at Trump’s urging, Israel denied Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., entry to the country over their support for the BDS movement. Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and outspoken critics of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
“My administration strongly opposes this despicable rhetoric,” Trump said. “As long as I am your president, it makes no difference. It’s not happening.”
Before addressing the Israeli American Council summit, Trump spoke at the Florida Republican Party’s Statesman’s Dinner in nearby Aventura. The state GOP closed the event to media coverage.