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Orly Azoulay
Trump, Israel and the Jewish vote
Analysis: Even though his daughter converted to Judaism and he keeps calling Netanyahu his friend, Jewish Americans will probably keep supporting Democratic candidates.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, went through a transformation six years ago: She converted to Judaism. She then changed her name to Yael, and now leads a traditional Jewish lifestyle – keeping kosher and observing the Sabbath, together with her husband, Jared Kushner, son of a rich New Jersey family.

 

 

Ivanka-Yael, 33, a former model and current businesswoman working alongside her father, is now expecting her third child.

 

Donald Trump recently published a photo of his granddaughter, Ivanka and Jared's eldest child, standing next to her mother in the kitchen, preparing Friday night dinner ahead of the Sabbath. I never planned on having a Jewish daughter, Trump said, but I'm very glad it happened.

 

Ivanka Trump (left) at a 2015 Republican primary debate (Photo: AP)
Ivanka Trump (left) at a 2015 Republican primary debate (Photo: AP)

 

The Kushner family recently held a fundraiser for Trump in their New Jersey mansion, but despite the family connection, Trump has mostly managed to frighten the Jewish Americans whose votes he covets. US Jews traditionally vote Democrat: In the past two presidential elections roughly 75 percent of them ended up on Barack Obama's side. I have a lot of Jewish friends who support Obama and I ask why, Trump recently said in an interview. I can't explain it, he said, they give him money, campaign donations, advice. I don't understand it. Obama is Israel's greatest enemy.

 

In another statement, Trump said that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sold Israel out on the Iran nuclear deal, adding that if he became president, he would support any unilateral Israeli action against Iran.

 

After the decline in Israeli-American relations during Obama's presidency, Republicans hoped Jewish Americans might be persuaded to switch their picks in the coming elections. Trump's ascent has disrupted that; the brash real-estate billionaire simply frightens Jewish voters, and the Republican establishment is well aware of it.

 

Over 20 percent of Jewish voters have supported a Republican presidential candidate in the past. If Trump becomes the party nominee, concerns are that the number will shrink in 2016.

 

Trump says he's a great ally of Israel, and takes care to refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu as a friend. He was against the Iran deal, and despite the fact that he doesn't know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah (he promised he'll learn in the future), he does believe Israel needs to be strengthened.

 

Donald Trump. Simply scares Jewish voters (Photo: MCT)
Donald Trump. Simply scares Jewish voters (Photo: MCT)

 

But unlike what's sometimes assumed in Israel, Jewish Americans don't vote for presidential candidates based solely on their positions regarding the Jewish nation. What really determines the way they vote are issues of economics, human rights, and religious freedoms. Most American Jews can better connect to Democratic candidates' positions, and the rich among them tend to generously donate to their campaigns.

 

The members of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) worriedly watch the Trump horror show, seeing the intolerant shadow his positions cast over the entire party. When Trump called Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapists, Jewish stomachs turned: Their ancestors came to America from Europe, and when Trump puts such labels on an entire segment of the population, it reminds them of the anti-Semitism their family had to contend with before arriving in the US.

 

But Trump doesn't really care. He doesn't need their donations. The Jewish millionaires of the Republican party observe his success with shocked looks on their faces. He isn't a part of them, he doesn't represent them, and his arrival has made them irrelevant. As of now, they don't have much influence over the presidential race.

 

Even the Jewish connection, via his daughter, hasn't gotten Trump significant support in the community, which can't ignore one simple detail: Among his supporters are some of the most racist organizations and bodies in the United States. The Jews will never ally with these. 

 

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