Trump plays Jerusalem card for Jewish vote

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at New York's Trump Tower on Sept. 25, and pledged that if he is elected, the United States will "recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel." The quote is from a statement issued by the Trump campaign, as reporters were barred from the closed-door meeting. Bibi also met separately with Hillary Clinton that day, but it is the meeting with Trump—the one closed to the media—that is getting the media attention, due to his exploitation of the Jerusalem question. (Reuters, AP, Sept. 25)

Netanyahu was in town for the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, where he engaged in tense exchange of accusations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Ma'an, Sept. 23) Ten days earlier, he was in Washington to finalize a $38 billion package of military aid for Israel over the next 10 years, being called the largest ever. "Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU [memorandum of understanding] will make a significant contribution to Israel's security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood," President Obama said in a statement.

Under the deal, Israel will receive $3.8 billion a year from the US—up from the $3.1 billion that Washington currently gives Israel annually under a 10-year deal that ends in 2018. Most of the funds are slated for weapons, including F-35 fighter jets, with a guarantee of $500 million every year for the Iron Dome missile defense system. (NYT, Sept. 16; Al Jazeera, Sept. 15; NYT, Sept. 13)

Of course it is perverse nearly to the point of surrealism that the unprecedentedly Israel-compliant Obama administration is demonized by Bibi's crowd as hostile to Israel. US refusal to budge on the status of Jerusalem is a key grievance of Israel's ruling right. Reaction to Trump's exploitation of the Jerusalem issue in an obvious bid for the Jewish vote will be interesting to watch. The most obvious question is whether American Jews will take the bait—despite the abject anti-Semitism displayed both by Trump himself and his supporters (see these charming examples at ThinkProgress) and the convergence of his campaign with the actual neo-Nazi right. But it will also be interesting to see whether it will serve to wake up certain deluded leftists who argue that Trump is less dangerous than Clinton due to his supposed "isolationism" and lack of fealty to Israel.

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