Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, US, September 26, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There was only passive reference to Israel in the 90-minute presidential debate Monday night at Hofstra University. Donald Trump had prepped for it but missed an opportunity to play his Israel card in the debate. The best he could do was a reference in his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal and turmoil in the Middle East when he said, "I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day and believe me he is not a happy camper."
The Republican candidate had met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's the night before the debate and was expected to speak more about that issue. The meeting at Trump Tower was widely seen as Netanyahu's subtle endorsement for a candidate doing very poorly among Jewish voters and contributors.
Meddling in American politics is just too tempting for Netanyahu to resist. And he's so good at it, just look at how he helped elect President Romney and his success in leading the Republican opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. The Trump meeting may have been at the urging of Netanyahu's benefactor, Sheldon Adelson, who has so far been reluctant to meet his $100 million commitment to the Republican standard bearer's campaign. Trump spoke of our allies reimbursing the United States for our spending on their defense and for foreign aid we've given them. He has included Israel in that group in the past but did not bring it up Monday evening.
Clinton and Trump Debate
What came through was two very different candidates. One an experienced foreign policy expert and another who shot from the hip with little preparation or background.
The Trump Tower meeting had been set up weeks earlier but in recent days Israeli officials called Clinton's campaign to offer the Democratic candidate a meeting so Netanyahu would not appear to be taking sides. She wanted a public meeting but Netanyahu refused. She knows Netanyahu and the issues very well didn't need the meeting, but couldn't be seen turning down the Prime Minister of Israel.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump advisor, was seen at the debate kissing Adelson's ring. It was probably done in jest, but may have been intended to help shake loose some of Sheldon's sheqls for Trump.
At his meeting with Netanyahu, Trump vowed to immediately recognize undivided Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital if he's elected, but there apparently was no repeating of George W. Bush's unfilled vow to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Day One.
The mediator brought up the issue of racism but Clinton did not raise Trump's support among white supremacists and anti-Semites, including Trump's Tweets of anti-Semitic messages and images.
When veteran Republican strategist Frank Luntz was asked who won tonight's debate, he said "In my focus group 6 people said Trump and 16 said Clinton." Luntz was a mentor to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, a Netanyahu confidante. Douglas Bloomfield