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Trump says 'American Jews don't love Israel enough' because they did not vote for him

Former president says it 'seems strange' he did not garner more support from US Jews despite his exceptionally pro-Israel policy
Then-President Donald Trump addresses the 2019 Israeli American Council National Summit at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida (AFP/File photo)

Former US President Donald Trump has accused American Jews of not loving Israel "enough" due to the demographic's consistent support for the Democratic party. 

The former president, in an interview with the Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox weekly Ami, criticised American Jews for not voting for him in larger numbers during the US's last presidential elections despite his unprecedented support for Israel.

"American Jews don't love Israel enough," Trump told the weekly in comments published on Wednesday. 

'I believe we got 25 percent of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense... It just seems strange to me'

- Donald Trump

"You know what really surprises me? I did the [Golan] Heights, I did Jerusalem and I did Iran - the Iran deal was a disaster, right? And I also did many other things," he said, referring to his decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over Syria's Golan Heights and occupied East Jerusalem, as well as his withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Despite Trump's recognition, under international law Israel is an occupying power in both East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and is not entitled to permanent sovereignty. During his presidency, the Trump administration also brokered a series of normalisation agreements between Israel and several Arab states and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

Trump, suggesting all Jews should inherently support Israel, said "it just seems strange" that his pro-Israel moves did not result in American Jewish support for his campaign.  

"I believe we got 25 percent of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense," Trump said. 

“Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough,” the former president reiterated. "Does that make sense to you?" he asked while noting that he considered the Orthodox community, which has seen growing support for the Republican party, as an exception. "I’m not talking about Orthodox Jews," he said. 

'Great disloyalty'

Trump's comments were not the first time he suggested that Jewish Americans should automatically support Israel. 

In August 2019, he declared that "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty". It was unclear whether he was accusing Jewish Democrats of being disloyal to the United States, to Israel or to him as president. 

Several days later, in a series of tweets, he quoted praise from a non-Jewish conservative radio host who referred to Trump as the "King of Israel".

"The Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel," Trump quoted Wayne Allyn Root as saying. "They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore."

The statement Trump made in 2019 generated many baffled and outraged responses, as have his most recent remarks, as many American Jews - especially those on the left - accuse Trump of antisemitism. 

"It is an anti-Semitic trope to assume that allegiance to Netanyahu defines my ethnic, political, cultural, religious, or political identity," Democratic Senator Brian Schatz tweeted on Wednesday, referring to Israel's former hard-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

"I am a proud American Jew and I won’t let anyone define the extent of my love for Israel by my belligerence towards others," Schatz continued. 

Josh Marshall, founder of the Talking Points Memo blog, accused the former president of "sounding off on who's a good Jew and who isn't". 

Following Trump's loss in November, Ayoob Kara, former Israeli communications minister and member of Netanyahu's Likud party, accused American Jews of "betrayal" after they overwhelmingly voted for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 

At the time, an exit poll by J-Street, a progressive Jewish advocacy group, found that 77 percent of American Jewish voters cast their ballots for Biden, while 21 percent chose Trump.

"Trump pushed the Jewish vote further to the Democrats," the group’s pollster wrote in a memo summarising the results at the time.

At the same time, American Jewish support for Democratic policies has long been a historical voting pattern. 

Nevertheless, last week, as Netanyahu faced his own lost election, he lashed out against J-Street, calling it a "radical leftist US organization" that had worked against his campaign for prime minister because of the group's support for the Iran nuclear deal.