WASHINGTON, D.C.—Another day, another controversy.
The exclusive interview that former U.S. President Donald J. Trump gave to an Israeli journalist for his new book is igniting one wave of controversy after another.
The journalist is Barak Ravid, a veteran political and diplomatic correspondent based in Tel Aviv.
The book is called, “Trump's Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East.” It was just released, but only in Israel and only in Hebrew.
Trump went on the record with Ravid in April in two separate interviews that totaled more than 90 minutes.
And oy vey.
IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM
ALL ISRAEL NEWS has been covering these controversies all week.
But in case you missed them, the first brouhaha that erupted from the interview was the revelation that Trump has become so angry with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu that the two men haven’t spoken since the 2020 U.S. elections.
The situation is so bad that Trump said of Bibi – on-the-record and on tape – “F*** him!”
As I have reported on ALL ISRAEL NEWS, I have heard the audio recording in context and Trump really did say it. Moreover, Trump explains at length why the relationship between him and Bibi has become so broken.
Then came the story that Trump was blindsided by Netanyahu’s announcement at the unveiling of the Trump peace plan at the White House in January 2020 that Bibi was going to immediately apply Israeli sovereignty to upwards of 30% of Judea and Samaria, what the world calls the West Bank.
Ravid reports that then-U.S. Ambassador David Friedman did not inform Trump of Netanyahu’s intentions to move so quickly on so-called “annexation” and that Trump met privately with his advisors after Netanyahu’s remarks and said, “What the hell was that?”
Friedman flatly denies this account and says Ravid’s reporting on this is “false.”
Then came the story that relations between the Trump White House and the Netanyahu team became so strained, so tense, that at one point in the winter of 2020 Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, had a shouting match in the West Wing with then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Ravid reports that Kushner actually threw Dermer out of his office.
I have reached out to Dermer for comment, but he has not responded to me or to other reporters.
Yet another revelation in the book is that just one day before the Aug. 13, 2020 White House announcement of the peace and normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates – brokered by Trump and Kushner – Netanyahu got cold feet and tried to get out of the deal, fearing it could undermine his re-election efforts.
This, too, created anger and animosity with Trump and his inner circle towards Netanyahu.
TRUMP’S LATEST CONTROVERSY – LISTEN TO THE AUDIO YOURSELF
Now comes the latest controversy over comments Trump made to Ravid about Evangelical Christians, American Jews and the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
“There are people in this country that are Jewish [yet] no longer love Israel,” Trump said.
“I’ll tell you, the Evangelical Christians love Israel more than Jews in this country.”
“It used to be that Israel had absolute power over Congress,” Trump added. “And today, I think it’s the exact opposite. And I think Obama and Biden did that.”
“The Jewish people in the United States either don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel,” Trump told Ravid.
“I mean look at the New York Times,” he said. “The New York Times hates Israel, hates them. And they’re Jewish people that run The New York Times. I mean, the Sulzberger family.”
The audio of these comments by Trump were first revealed on a podcast called, “Unholy” – hosted by Yonit Levi of Israel’s Channel 12 news and Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian – in which the hosts interviewed Ravid and played these sound bites.
The Times of Israel then picked up the story.
You can listen to the audio of this part of the conversation for yourself by clicking here.
SOME ARE ACCUSING TRUMP OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Some American Jewish leaders and organizations have expressed outrage at Trump’s remarks and accused the former president of trafficking in anti-Semitism.
“Once again, former President Trump has linked his lack of strong support among most U.S. Jews to their feelings about Israel and used classic #antisemitic stereotypes about Israeli and Jewish control of Congress and the press to bolster his argument,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, on Friday.
Once again, former President Trump has linked his lack of strong support among most US Jews to their feelings about Israel and used classic #antisemitic stereotypes about Israeli and Jewish control of Congress and the press to bolster his argument.https://t.co/5hVfvvn6rm— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) December 17, 2021
“Let me be clear: insinuating that Israel or the Jews control Congress or the media is antisemitic, plain and simple,” Greenblatt added. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time he has made these offensive remarks.”
“It's sad that once again we have to restate this point, but the vast majority of American Jews support and have some type of connection to Israel, regardless of which political candidate they vote for.”
Let me be clear: insinuating that Israel or the Jews control Congress or the media is antisemitic, plain and simple. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he has made these offensive remarks.— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) December 17, 2021
The American Jewish Committee was similarly outraged.
“Why is Mr. Trump once again fueling dangerous stereotypes about Jews?” the AJC tweeted on Friday. “His past support for Israel doesn’t give him license to traffic in radioactive antisemitic tropes – or peddle unfounded conclusions about the unbreakable ties that bind American Jews to Israel. Enough!”
Why is Mr. Trump once again fueling dangerous stereotypes about Jews?— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) December 17, 2021
His past support for Israel doesn’t give him license to traffic in radioactive antisemitic tropes — or peddle unfounded conclusions about the unbreakable ties that bind American Jews to Israel.
THE TRUTH IS TRUMP IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC
Not everybody agrees with the ADL or AJC on this, however.
“I don’t think Donald Trump is anti-Semitic,” said Barak Ravid on the podcast “Unholy.”
Ravid went on to note that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism to marry Jared Kushner, who is Jewish.
Ravid noted that Trump has Jewish grandchildren.
That some of Trump’s closest and most trusted advisors – including Kushner, David Friedman, Avi Berkowitz, and Jason Greenblatt – are not just Jewish but Orthodox Jews, deeply devout religiously, and deeply devoted and patriotic Americans.
And Ravid is right.
Trump may not always articulate his views in the most careful and thoughtful manner.
But Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic. He loves Jewish people. He loves Israel. And he feels he has done more than any American president to bless Israel and the Jewish people – and that’s true, Trump was unquestionably the most pro-Israel president in American history.
But he’s bewildered as to why so few Jews in the U.S. seem to love Israel as deeply and as passionately and as unconditionally as Evangelical Christians.
He’s also bewildered why more Jews didn’t vote for him in 2020 when he was so pro-Israel.
THREE KEY POINTS
These are good and important topics, ones I’ll explore in upcoming columns.
For now, I’ll just make three quick points.
First, it’s true that most Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have a deep love for Israel and the Jewish people, and this comes from our love for – and belief in – the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
Indeed, the more one studies and believes in the holy scriptures, the more one realizes how much God loves Israel and why we should, too.
Second, fewer and fewer American Jews study the Tanakh or Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) on a regular basis for themselves.
Many have drifted away from a love for the Bible and, therefore, become less religious and more secular.
And in so doing, many feel less connected to the God of Israel, much less to the State of Israel.
It’s not fair to say that American Jews en masse don’t love or support Israel anymore. Obviously, many do. But that support has been weakening over time, and while there are many factors, a big one is the disconnection American Jews have to the Bible and to the eternal covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Third, Trump is right that his strong support for Israel did not persuade the majority of Jews to vote for him in 2020.
This is because most American Jews are politically and socially liberal – many are even hardcore progressives – and prioritize many other issues over U.S.-Israel relations.
In an article on Friday regarding Trump’s remarks, the Times of Israel reported on American Jewish voting patterns in recent years:
No national exit polls on the Jewish vote were published after the 2020 election.
A poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition found that 30.5% of Jewish voters voted for GOP incumbent Donald Trump nationally compared to 60.6% for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
A poll commissioned by the liberal group J Street found that 77% of Jewish Americans voted for Biden and only 21% for Trump.
In 2016, Pew found that Hillary Clinton won 71% of the Jewish vote to Trump’s 25%.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.