Small but Energetic, Breakaway Pro-Trump Group in Israel Predicts Victory

The Trump Blue and White movement provides insight into the beliefs and attitudes of Trump supporters in Israel.

A rally organized by the Trump Blue and White movement in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016.
Lior Mizrahi

Surveying the approximately 35 supporters who came to the rally in support of Republican candidate Donald Trump, Nimrod Zuta, 27, acknowledged that he had hoped for a larger turnout. "But as many or as few as we are," he adds quickly, "this is the people of Israel in all our glory."

Zuta, 27, is the self-appointed head of the Trump Blue and White movement, a loosely organized group that has broken away from the official Republicans Overseas Israel. Trump Blue and White has garnered more than 14,000 Facebook likes. Reportedly disinvited from the official group's rally last week, Trump Blue and White organized Monday's last-minute rally, Zuta says, "to call on the Creator of the Universe. Hashem will hear our prayers and Donald Trump will be President of the United States."

Zuta raises his voice and several of demonstrators cheer loudly. The small crowd, milling around the entrance to Independence Park in downtown Jerusalem, carries both Israeli and American flags, including the iconic yellow Gadsden flag with its famous "Don't Tread on Me" slogan. Others carry hand-made signs, some that say "Make America Great Again" and one reading "Get Rid of the Swamp."

Despite its size, the group provides insight into the beliefs and attitudes of Trump supporters in Israel.

While Trump’s policy on Israel still remains undefined at best, David Ish-Shalom, a 68 year old Jerusalemite who defines himself as "an activist for Israel," says, "Trump will support Israel. Hillary has joined forces with the enemies of Israel, including the enemies from within Israel, to try to destroy us."

Ish-Shalom is wearing a toga-like tunic made of two Israeli flags. He is an Israeli and not an American citizen, he says, but he has come to the rally because "Trump represents nationalism in America and in the whole world. He is the antithesis of the global left, which denies the right of the Jewish people to a homeland."  

Jason White, 51, a dual American-Israel citizen, adds, "Here, in Jerusalem, we are in the heart of the entire world. Here we must show our support." He is wearing the yellow T-shirt of the extreme right-wing Kach movement emblazoned with words "Kahane was right."  Asked about the connection between the slogan and support for Trump, he replies, "The Arabs here are our micro-issue. But the rights of the Jewish people is a macro-issue for the whole world, and Trump knows and supports this."

Alma Ao, 47, a cook in Jerusalem who comes from India, shakes her head in strong agreement. "I feel Israeli now. Trump will be good for Israel."

While over the past few days the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups have raised concerns that Trumps campaign – and especially his final TV ad – have employed classic anti-Semitic themes, these demonstrators are convinced that Clinton is the anti-Semite.

Two Trump supporters attend a rally organized by the Trump Blue and White movement for the Republican candidate in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016.
Lior Mizrahi

"[Democratic candidate Hillary] Clinton is allied with the left, which has taken over the colleges with its anti-Semitism and anti-Israel-ism," says Havah Hope, 54, a kindergarten teacher who is a dual citizen and lives in Jerusalem. "I have a teenage daughter and I would be afraid for her to attend an American college because of anti-Semitism. Trump will put a stop to that."

Her companion, Lisa Liel, 53, a computer programmer who is also American-Israeli, adds, "Sure, Trump criticized some Jews, like [philanthropist] George Soros. But Soros is himself anti-Semitic, even if he is Jewish. Trump will stand up for the Jews."

Liel says she came to the rally because she wants "American Jews to get out and vote for Trump. My great grandfather didn't leave Russia and walk across Europe so that I could sit at home, not vote, and not encourage others to vote."

Zuta insists that the media is misleading the public. "The majority of Americans in Israel support Trump, just like they supported Romney," he says, referring to fact that 85 percent of the votes cast in Israel in the 2012 election were for the Republican candidate, with only 14 percent for the Democratic incumbent, President Barack Obama.

But in an exit poll conducted by iVote Israel, a group that helps expats in Israel vote in U.S. elections, Trump received only 49 percent of the vote to Clinton's 44 percent. According to several surveys of the general Israeli public, 43 to 44 percent prefer Clinton, compared to 26 to 30 percent for Trump.

The group proceeds to the Western Wall Plaza, accompanied by a few policemen who stop traffic as they cross the streets. As they walk, Ish-Shalom, in a heavy Israeli accent, leads group in chanting, "We support Trump all the way, and we are here to stay."

As they walk through an intersection, several cars honk in support. But a driver in a car with "Peace Now" stickers yells out, "Are you guys completely crazy? Are you complete idiots?" From another car, a driver sticks out his finger in an obscene gesture.

As they approach the Western Wall, the police turn them away from the main entrance, because, Zuta explains to the group, "the Kotel is holy and we may not have political meetings there, no matter how important an issue this is."

They climb up the many stars to Rabinovitch Square, which overlooks the plaza and the Temple Mount. "Build that wall," Ish-Shalom calls and the assembled cheer. "And who will pay for it?" he asks. "The Mexicans," they respond. A young man dressed in a black hat and suit adds, "And the Palestinians will pay for our wall."

They conclude with a group picture. "This picture will become part of history," says Zuta. "It is the first group picture of the trustees of the Movement for Trump in Israel."

Ish-Shalom invites everyone to a victory party early Wednesday morning in Independence Park.