Report: Trump draws jeers at Jewish Republican event, tells crowd he doesn't want their money

The crowd was further dismayed after Trump questioned Israel's commitment to peace, and refused to affirm Jerusalem as united capital.

By REUTERS
December 4, 2015 09:42
3 minute read.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking at Republican Jewish Conference- Dec. 2, 201

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking at Republican Jewish Conference- Dec. 2, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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US Republican presidential candidate and billionaire Donald Trump on Thursday questioned Israel's commitment to a two-state solution, refused to declare his support for a united Jerusalem, joked about Jewish stereotypes and suggested Jewish Republicans would not support him in his bid for the White House because he did not want their money, according to Politico.

Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) summit in Washington, Trump struggled to win over the the politically savvy crowd of influential and affluent donors focused on prioritizing American policy toward Israel.

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Trump began the evening at a disadvantage, after suggesting in recent comments that Israel is primarily responsible for facilitating a final peace arrangement with the Palestinians.

The crowd was further dismayed after Trump refused to affirm that Jerusalem is Israel's united capital, saying instead that he preferred "to wait until I meet with Bibi" to hammer out specifics, which drew audible boos from the audience.

He further agitated the crowd by suggesting that members of the RJC would not support him because he did not want their financial support.

"You're not going to support me even though you know I'm the best thing that could ever happen to Israel. And I'll be that," Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition. "You're not going to support me because I don't want your money. Isn't it crazy?"

Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary to George W. Bush, who attended the event, called the remark "offensive," according to Politico.



White House hopeful Dr. Ben Carson, who also spoke at the event, received a warmer reaction from the audience. Yet, his repeated mispronunciations of terrorist organization "Hamas" as if it were the more universal Middle Eastern chickpea dish highlighted the perception that he does not fully comprehend the complicated dynamics of the region.

“I don’t think either one helped themselves particularly,” Fleischer added.

Trump latter salvaged some support back from the attendees with a bit of politically incorrect humor, taking a jab at Jewish stereotypes.

“I’m a negotiator like you, folks,” Trump said, adding, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

“He’s funny. And if I went to the Catskills for vacation, I’d love to see him,” New York attorney Eric Levine said of Trump. “But as president, his lack of knowledge is disturbing to me… He’s a circus act.” Levine added, “He’s flat-out scary. I think he’s a wonderful man … But he’s totally vapid.”

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who did not attend Thursday's event , derided Trump's speech in a statement.

“Donald Trump’s absurd and factually inaccurate claim that a successful peace deal with the Palestinian Authority dictatorship" rests on the shoulders of Israel "makes clear that Trump doesn’t have a clue, knowledge or understanding" about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

An Israeli official close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed off on Friday the remarks by Trump, who is expected to arrive in Israel at the end of the month for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sources in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Wednesday,

In addition, Zev Elkin, an Israeli cabinet minister and senior lawmaker in Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, sounded unfazed.

"I think that in the end of the day Donald Trump is known as a candidate whose almost every statement is a provocative statement. So it might be said that the Jews got off cheap compared to his other statements," Elkin told Israel Radio.

"I don't think anyone should draw lessons from this or that statement," Elkin said. "Don't forget that he says these things as part of a campaign in which, certainly, he is funding himself but there are candidates who have many wealthy Jews supporting them and there is a kind of intra-Republican debate going on."

Israel, Elkin said, should stay out of US politics while American Jews "weigh up the various candidates according to what they represent and make a decision." Israeli government spokesmen did not respond to Trump's remarks.

The Anti-Defamation League also came out with a statement Thursday, defending Trump's comments amid the litany of criticism.

"After having carefully reviewed the speech, we do not believe that it was Donald Trump’s intention to evoke anti-Semitic stereotypes," Jonathan Greenblatt, the league's CEO, said in a statement.

Greenblatt added that Trump "has made similar comments about spending his own money on the campaign, and not asking for money from donors, to many other groups."

Herb Keinon and Danielle Ziri contributed to this report.

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