With Donald Trump sweeping to a resounding victory in seven Super Tuesday states Tuesday night, Republicans awoke this week to the reality that the New York real estate magnate had solidified his status as the front-runner for the party nomination.
And while his candidacy has deeply unsettled many in the GOP establishment, not to mention its influential Jewish donor base, Trump has arguably the closest ties to the American Jewish community of any candidate, from his Jewish daughter and grandchildren to his deep ties to the New York business community.
Here’s a rundown of Trump’s major pronouncements on Jewish issues so far in the 2016 race.
Trump would remain “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Even more disconcerting to Jewish Republicans than his on-again, off-again, then on-again renunciation of support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is Trump’s declaration that he would not choose sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Let me sort of be a neutral guy,” Trump said in February. Unwavering support for Israel is a critical Republican talking point in the party’s perpetual (and still largely unsuccessful) efforts to sway a majority of Jewish voters from their longtime dedication to the Democrats. Trump’s comments will likely make that effort more difficult for the Republicans in November.
“Do they both want to make peace?”
In December, Trump expounded on the Middle East conflict in an interview with the AP. Trump said he was interested in making a “lasting peace,” and that required the commitment of both sides, something he wasn’t sure existed, adding: “I have a real question as to one side in particular.” He declined to specify which side that was, but some understood Trump to be questioning Israel’s commitment more than the Palestinians.
Trump would not commit to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
At a Republican Jewish Coalition candidate’s forum in December, Trump demurred when asked if he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In January, he appeared to shift gears when he promised to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “We are for that 100 percent,” Trump said.
Trump likes Israel’s West Bank security barrier
Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border and get Mexico to pay for it is a set piece of his campaign stump speech. More than once, Trump has referenced Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank as proof of the wall’s efficacy and the hypocrisy of his opponents in criticizing it. “If you think walls don’t work, all you have to do is ask Israel,” Trump said at a debate in November. In January he tweeted: “Hillary Clinton said that it is O.K. to ban Muslims from Israel by building a WALL, but not O.K. to do so in the U.S. We must be vigilant!”
Trump doesn’t want money from Republican Jewish bigwigs
At the RJC forum, Trump was candid that he did not want or expect support from Republican Jewish donors, but he made the point in a way that seemed to some to traffic in anti-Semitic stereotypes about shadowy Jewish control of political leaders. “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money,” Trump said. “You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.” Making matters worse, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan later saluted Trump for disavowing Jewish money.
Trump thinks the Iran deal is lousy, but won’t rip it up
The deal-maker extraordinaire has not minced words when it comes to President Obama’s handling of the Iran nuclear negotiations, saying, “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran and I mean never.” Among his quibbles: Iran got too much money and made no commitment to release American prisoners, and inspections are insufficiently intrusive. But unlike his fellow Republicans, Trump says he would not disavow the deal on Day 1, but would be “so tough” in enforcing it.