Donald Trump says he is no apprentice when it comes to Israel
In the middle of a phone interview with JNS.org on June 26, billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves his desk to scan the wall of his office for awards he has received from the Jewish community.
Trump reads the text of some relevant plaques before returning to his desk. But before this reporter can move on to the next question, Trump eagerly points out that he was the grand marshal of New York City’s annual Salute to Israel Parade (now the Celebrate Israel Parade) in 2004 “at a time when it was quite dangerous to do that” and “a pretty tough time for Israel,” in the middle of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising against Israel). He also cites a video endorsement he gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Jewish state’s January 2013 election, expressing pride that it was “at the time the only ad done by a celebrity” for Netanyahu.
What does all of this have to do with the 2016 American presidential election? President Barack Obama won 78 percent of Jewish votes when he was first elected in 2008, and despite a rocky relationship with Israel when compared to most other U.S. presidents, he garnered 69 percent of the Jewish vote in 2012. Trump, however, touts his close relationship with Israel and the Jewish community as the reason he believes he can outperform Republican contenders of both the past and present among Jewish voters.
How close, in fact, is Trump’s relationship with Judaism? Unlike the name of his reality TV show, he is no apprentice when it comes to the Jewish faith. Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism in 2009, and her observance of Shabbat with her husband Jared Kushner (a well-known real estate developer as well as the owner and publisher of the New York Observer newspaper) is well-documented.
“I have great respect for [the Shabbat traditions], and I see Ivanka during Saturday, and from Friday evening on through Saturday night, she won’t take phone calls and they live a very interesting life,” Trump said. “And it’s actually a beautiful thing to watch, with Jared and Ivanka. In a very hectic life, it really becomes a very peaceful time. So there’s something very nice about it.”
There are already 14 declared Republican presidential candidates, and many of them are publicly expressing support for Israel, but Trump argues—in his typically brash and blunt fashion—that his history with the Jewish people and the Jewish state can set him apart from the rest of the crowded GOP field.
“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump. “The rest of them are all talk, no action. They’re politicians. I’ve been loyal to Israel from the day I was born. My father, Fred Trump, was loyal to Israel before me. The only one that’s going to give Israel the kind of support it needs is Donald Trump.”
Below is the rest of Trump’s interview with JNS.org.
JNS: What is your assessment of President Obama’s record on Israel?
Donald Trump: “I think President Obama is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to Israel. I think he’s set back [Israeli] relations with the United States terribly, and for people and friends of mine who are Jewish, I don’t know how they can support President Obama. He has been very bad for Israel.”
What’s your experience with Israel’s business community, which has earned the country the well-known ‘start-up nation’ nickname?
“I know so many people from Israel. I have so many friends in Israel. First of all, the Israelis are great businesspeople. They have a natural instinct for business and their start-ups are fantastic. I deal with the Israelis all the time, and I deal with people who are Jewish all the time, whether they are Israeli or not.”
Knowing what you know from negotiations in the business world, how would you approach the current nuclear talks with Iran?
“I would double-up and triple-up the sanctions, and I would make them (the Iranians) want to make a deal. Right now they’re just toying with us.”
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