Israel deal bolsters Trump bid to expand Jewish support

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The Trump campaign unveiled a new coalition on Wednesday to win over more Jewish voters, believing the president’s record on Israel and anti-Semitism will galvanize American Jews and drive a wedge in their traditional alliance with the Democratic Party over the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Rep. Ilhan Omar and others.

Coming a day after Mr. Trump hosted a breakthrough Middle East peace deal with Israel and the United Arab Emirates at the White House, the leaders of “Jewish Voices for Trump” said their effort will underscore what they say are the administration’s pro-Israel policies and its “empowering Jewish communities across the country.”

Among the group’s five co-chairs are billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, both major financial supporters of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has increased his support from Jewish voters slightly since 2016. A poll released Monday by the Jewish Electorate Institute showed him with 30 percent support among Jewish Americans, while Democrat Joseph R. Biden received 67 percent support.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump got 24 percent of the Jewish vote; Hillary Clinton received 71 percent.

Only 3 percent of the Jewish Americans who were polled said they are undecided; pollsters said the voters are “locked in” for both candidates. If accurate, it leaves Mr. Trump little room to expand his base.

Boris Epshteyn, an adviser to the Trump campaign and a co-chair of the “Jewish Voices” coalition, said the president is “a champion of the Jewish people and the greatest ally the State of Israel has ever had.” He pointed to Mr. Trump making good on his pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May 2018, recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital, renouncing the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and signing the historic “Abraham Accords” this week with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

The president used his televised press briefing at the White House on Wednesday to remind voters of the importance of the peace deal, noting his approach bucked the traditional Washington establishment wisdom.

“We’re doing this a different way,” Mr. Trump said. “They all thought you make the deal first with the Palestinians, it had to be that way. I said they’re wrong. I think ultimately the Palestinians are going to come in.”

He predicted Saudi Arabia also will join in recognizing Israel diplomatically.

“You’ll end up with peace in the Middle East, and nobody thought it could be done,” the president said.

Palestinian leaders have been harshly critical both of the administration’s Israel tilt and of Arab states who are moving closer to Israel despite the stalemate over a peace deal for the Palestinians.

Trump campaign officials also say the emergence of the “Squad” of freshmen Democratic lawmakers like Ms. Omar, a native of Somalia who represents a district in Minnesota, is driving more Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party. One survey voted Ms. Omar as the “anti-Semite of 2019,” citing in part her rhetoric that has repeated stereotypes about Jews.

“Today’s extremist Democrats are electing anti-Semites into Congress and inviting them to speak at their national convention,” Mr. Epshteyn said. “They are turning their back on our Israeli allies, minimizing the Holocaust, and fermenting anarchy in our streets.”

Ms. Omar said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday that she is a magnet for racist treatment by conservative media, and that it endangers her community.

“Every word that is used to vilify me is often rooted in hatred for my Blackness, for my immigrant status, for my Muslim-ness and for my willingness to wear a hijab,” she told VICE TV. “And so, I know that the communities that I represent that identify with those identities are often pained by that vilification and their lives get to be put at risk.”

Ranking the issues

The JEI poll found that Israel didn’t rank as important as other issues among Jewish Americans. Some 92% of respondents rated the economy as important or very important, followed by health care (91%), the coronavirus crisis (90%) and anti-Semitism (82%). Israel was ranked as a top issue by 64% of respondents.

The survey also found a gender gap. Seventy-five percent of Jewish-American women support Mr. Biden; 57% of men support him. Mr. Trump gets the support of 42% of Jewish men and 20% of women.

Democrats say Mr. Trump’s ardent backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not cut into their support among most Jewish voters.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said the polling shows that “Mr. Trump’s policies on Israel, including the UAE deal, have not increased his support among Jewish voters. Jewish Americans trust Joe Biden more than Donald Trump on every issue, including Israel.”

The left-leading media watchdog Media Matters on Wednesday accused the Trump campaign of engaging in anti-Semitic stereotypes in a Facebook ad that depicts Mr. Biden as a puppet of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is Jewish, saying it invokes “a classic anti-Semitic image of a Jewish public figure as a puppetmaster.”

Democrats have a stronger representation on Capitol Hill: The nine Jewish senators include eight Democrats and Mr. Sanders, an independent, while 25 of the 27 Jewish members of the House are Democrats, as well.

But Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks praised the “Abraham Accords” signed this week and said the efforts of Mr. Trump and his aides was indispensable to a deal.

“The UAE-Israel treaty and the Bahrain-Israel treaty demonstrate that the countries of the region are moving toward real peace with Israel,” he said.

The Trump campaign believes voters also will be swayed by actions such as the president issuing an executive order last year to fight a rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S., directing federal agencies to identify more ways that the federal government can use its authority to combat the hatred.

They also note that Mr. Trump has signed into law a measure to strengthen Holocaust restitution efforts, and signed the “Never Again” Holocaust education law that provides $10 million in federal funding to boost Holocaust education.

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