WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump told a pro-Israel conference Saturday night that some American Jews don’t love Israel enough. He also noted that he did not have to worry about getting his audience’s votes, because they would cast ballots with business interests in mind.
Those comments, to the Israeli American Council advocacy group in Florida, drew quick criticism from opponents and were derided as anti-Semitic.
In his 45-minute speech to an audience of more than 4,300, the president criticized American Jews who, he said, were not sufficiently supportive of the Jewish state.
“You have people — Jewish people — and they are great people and they don’t love Israel enough,” he said.
The comments were reminiscent of remarks he made in August when he said that Jews who vote for Democrats were disloyal, drawing a vociferous backlash.
Nonetheless, the vigorously pro-Israel crowd in Hollywood, Florida, cheered the president with chants of “Four more years!” and loud applause.
Later, Trump told an anecdote about people saying that he wouldn’t step down after a second term.
“So now we have to start thinking about that, because it’s not a bad idea,” Trump said. The audience responded with chants of “12 more years.”
Trump was welcomed to the stage by Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who fund the IAC and who donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race.
Jews make up only a small portion of the national electorate, but in Florida, they represent a crucial piece of the swing state electoral puzzle. Historically, American Jews have voted heavily Democratic.
Wading into the 2020 campaign, Trump said the crowd would not vote for one of his potential Democratic opponents because she would take their wealth away.
“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.
“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.”
Warren has proposed an annual two percent tax on households with a net worth of between $50 million and $1 billion — and an additional four percent tax on those with a net worth exceeding $1 billion.
Speaking about finding a location for the US Embassy in Israel, he told the audience, “A lot of you are in the real estate business.”
“I know you very well, you’re brutal realtors.”
Trump said that when making the decision to move the embassy, he ignored calls from “countries you’ve never even heard of,” along with powerful kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers.”Don’t do it. Don’t do it, please. Don’t do it,” they implored, he said. “But unlike other politicians, I kept my promises.”
Jewish Democrats criticized the president’s remarks about wealth 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,” said Aaron Keyak, a former chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “Trump’s embrace of anti-Semitic rhetoric much stop. Period.”
The Democratic Majority for Israel on Twitter slammed Trump for peddling anti-Semitic tropes and ignoring the threat from the far right.
Watching Trump “traffic in antisemitic stereotypes is disgusting,” the tweet said. “Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy when discussing antisemitism is equally distressing.
This is not the first time Trump has been accused of anti-Semitism for linking Jews to money.
In 2015, Trump, then a candidate, told the Republican Jewish Coalition that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.”
Throughout his speech, Trump boasted about his Israel policies — with a special emphasis on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, cutting aid to the Palestinians, and withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.
He said he made the Golan recognition decision within a matter of moments, after discussing it with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “Fifty-two years, and I go bing, and it’s done,” he said.
At no point in the 45-minute speech did Trump mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of his closest allies on the world stage who is facing indictment as he battles for his political life, with Israel poised to head into its third elections in less than a year.
Netanyahu’s Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar was set to address to conference on Sunday but pulled out in order to take part in the Likud Central Committee meeting on Sunday evening in Ramat Gan.
The political deadlock has stalled the roll-out of the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal, but Trump said that his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was still working on hammering out a deal.
“If Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done,” he said.
The president also castigated the Obama administration as hostile to Israel. “I don’t think they liked Israel too much, I’m sorry,” he said. “After eight years [in] which our alliance was undermined and neglected, I am happy to report the United States-Israeli relationship is stronger now than ever before.”
At one point in his remarks, the president thanked Republican members of Congress in the room who were defending him against impeachment, such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, calling them “warriors” who were defending him “from oppression.”