Four thousand Israelis and American Jews attended the annual Summit of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) in Hollywood, Florida from December 5-8. On Saturday night the throngs were addressed by President Trump who was introduced at the event by Miriam Adelson. Together with her husband, Sheldon Adelson–the Las Vegas casino magnate—the Nevada billionaires have donated millions of dollars to President Trump, his campaigns, and the Republican Party. (They have also given enormous support to Bibi Netanyahu and right-wing causes in Israel.)
The Adelsons were the driving force in the expansion of the Israeli-American Council which was initially established to be a home for Israelis who were now living their lives in the United States. It proclaims as its mission to bring together Israeli-Americans, Jewish Americans, and Israelis for conversations and dialogue on current issues. Since its inception in 2007, the IAC has funded numerous non-political Jewish communal groups—in education, technology, community building, and social change throughout the United States. With the deep involvement of the Adelsons, however, the IAC has become a right-wing, pro-Netanyahu, pro-settlement organization. It also has been strongly supportive of the Republican Party and Donald Trump.
President Trump’s participation in this Summit was reported as his first attendance before a Jewish, non-political organization. Trump used his appearance to hype his own activities on behalf of Israel—from moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, to recognizing Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights, to declaring that Israeli West Bank settlements are not illegal.
(With respect to the settlement question, Trump did not even note the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a sense of the Congress Resolution, largely along party lines 226-188, that specifically declared the House’s support, for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This had been U.S. policy for years. The House’s non-binding resolution was seen by most observers as a rebuke to the Trump Administration’s decision to declare Israeli settlements on the West Bank not illegal.)
Wading into American politics even further, Trump used the opportunity to severely criticize President Obama and the Democratic Party for their failures and lack of support for Israel, while touting his own consistent record of support. Trump also asserted his deep concern for anti-Semitism in the world and the U.S on the left; while failing to note the serious problem of right-wing anti-Semitism as exhibited in the Charlottesville march and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Trump also attacked those Jews in America—roughly 70%–who do not support him. For the President, these Jews he declared, “…do not love Israel enough.”
The problem with Trump’s approach to American Jews and Israel is that he is creating fissures within the Jewish community for his own partisan goals. Trump is placed his foreign policy agenda in the Middle East in this speech to create a greater wedge among American Jews. This technique is stoking political hostility not only among Jews but many in his base who already are not friendly towards the Jewish community for its overwhelming lack of support for Trump.
When a President injects himself into the internal politics of any ethnic, religious, or racial group for his own political desires, it does not end well. This effort by the President can only cause greater polarization towards Jews, among Jews, and between American Jews and Israelis.