Is Trump antisemitic? Netanyahu doesn't think so

"He has a Jewish son-in-law and his daughter converted to Judaism and his grandchildren were raised as Jews: I don't think so," Netanyahu said days after Trump's apparent threat to American Jews.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday defended former US President Donald Trump, days after he appeared to threaten Jewish Americans, calling them ungrateful in recent comments on his social media app Truth Social.

In an MSNBC interview to promote his new book Bibi: My Story, Netanyahu pushed back on allegations that Trump’s comments make him an antisemite. 

"He has a Jewish son-in-law and his daughter converted to Judaism and his grandchildren were raised as Jews: I don't think so," Israel's longest-serving prime minister said. "But I think it reflects his frustrations, which happens to many politicians when they feel they don't get credit for the things they did."

 Former senior advisor to ex US president Donald Trump, Jared Kusner, his wife Ivanka Trump and head of Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on October 11, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Former senior advisor to ex US president Donald Trump, Jared Kusner, his wife Ivanka Trump and head of Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on October 11, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Netanyahu also noted “a certain myopia here on the assessment of American Jews” in Trump’s comments. “American Jews, by and large, and a great majority support Israel warmly, and some – especially in the radical, progressive wing – do not. But the great majority in the Democratic Party do,” he said.

What was Trump's criticism of American Jews?

On Sunday afternoon, a screenshot of Trump's post on his social media platform Truth Social began to circulate on Twitter, where he is banned, in which he said that "no President has done more for Israel than I have."

 "Somewhat surprisingly, however," he continued, "our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the US." 

Making it clear that his comments were aimed solely at US Jews, he said that "those living in Israel, though, are a different story."

He then ended his comments by warning US Jews that they "have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel - before it is too late."

The suggestion of disloyalty, which plays into the antisemitic trope that American Jews hold secret loyalty to Israel over the US, drew immediate condemnation.

A Pew Research survey released in 2021 found that 45% of Jewish adults in the US viewed caring about Israel as “essential” to what being Jewish means, with an additional 37% saying it was “important, but not essential.” Only 16% said caring about Israel was “not important.”

Despite Trump himself being banned from Twitter since January 2021, screenshots of his Truth Social post began circulating widely on the social media site, with many people voicing concerns over what they deemed to be a clear expression of antisemitism.

"You really don't need to read between the lines much on this one," wrote American political journalist Mattew Yglesias, sharing a screenshot of the post. "Trump has no concept of American Jews as a community that lives and prospers here with an identity and interests that are distinct from the concerns of the State of Israel."

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday that "Donald Trump's comments were antisemitic, as you all know, and insulting both to Jews and our Israeli allies."

The head of the American Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt accused Trump of “Jewsplaining.”

“We don’t need the former president, who curries favor with extremists and antisemites, to lecture us about the US-Israel relationship. It is not about a quid pro quo; it rests on shared values and security interests. This ‘Jewsplaining’ is insulting and disgusting,” he wrote.

Others pointed out that Trump's comments come suspiciously soon after rapper Kanye West - a known supporter of the former president - went on multiple antisemitic rants of his own over the last few weeks.

"Here's Trump adding fuel to the antisemitic dumpster fire by demanding American Jews show loyalty to him because of Israel," wrote a former member of Israel's UN team Aviva Klompas on her Twitter page.

Trump had high praise on Tuesday for West even as the hip-hop star continued to face backlash over his antisemitic remarks. Not only did Trump refuse to condemn West’s comments, but he doubled down with effusive praise, thanking the rapper for his undying loyalty and support.

Trump-Netanyahu relationship

Trump and Netanyahu have known each other since the 1980s, when the latter was Israel’s ambassador to the UN and the former was a real estate tycoon. Trump endorsed Netanyahu in a video posted to YouTube ahead of the 2013 election.

In the four elections since 2019, Netanyahu campaigned on his close relationship with the former president, citing that relationship as indicative of his international stature being “in another league” compared with his political opponents.

Despite long-term close ties, the two former chief executives have had some recent beef.

In an interview with an Israeli journalist released in December, Trump said about Netanyahu: “F**k him.”

Trump was disappointed in Netanyahu for congratulating US President Joe Biden on his election victory in November 2020, and continues to maintain that he was the actual winner of the election.

“He was very early,” Trump said. “Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since.”

 Lahav Harkov and Reuters contributed to this report.