Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said he believes he enjoys “massive” support from Israelis as he announced he would visit Israel before the presidential election, in an interview published by an Israeli daily Tuesday.
Trump told the free Israel Hayom tabloid that he had not heard of Israelis disliking him, despite a number of recent polls showing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as the favored candidate in the Jewish State.
“You are the first person to tell me that there are people in Israel who view me in a negative light, because I enjoy such massive support in Israel,” Trump told interviewer Boaz Bismuth.
His comment came in response to a question on whether he could assuage the fears of Israelis who believe he would be bad for their country for demanding US allies, including Israel, pay for American military assistance.
Trump added, “We are going to defend Israel. Israel will get assistance. Don’t forget that Israel is a bastion of hope for America in the region. Israel is the most important.”
Israel Hayom is owned by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire business and casino magnate and major Republican donor who last week said he would be backing Trump for the US presidency.
Recent polls in Israel, however, have shown both Jewish and Arab Israelis consistently prefer former secretary of state Clinton to her likely Republican opponent in the 2016 presidential election.
A poll by the Israeli Democracy Institute released on May 9 showed 40% of Israeli Jews preferring Clinton as president, with 31% backing Trump.
Another recent poll conducted by TNS for Channel 1 television found 42% of Israelis thought Clinton would be better for Israel, with Trump trailing behind at 34%.
This was true despite a majority of those polled believing Trump would have a better working relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump to visit Israel ‘soon’
Trump said during Tuesday’s interview that he would be visiting Israel “soon,” without specifying exactly when, responding to reports last week that he would travel to Israel, Russia and Germany after securing the nomination at the Republican National Convention.
Though Trump’s spokesperson denied the report, when asked about it by Israel Hayom, he responded: “Yes. I will be coming soon.”
The presumptive GOP nominee backed out of a visit to Israel last December, in which a controversial meeting was scheduled with Netanyahu.
At the time of the cancellation, Trump was under heavy criticism for rolling out his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US, following deadly terror attacks in Paris and California.
“I didn’t want to put him under pressure,” Trump told Fox News, referring to Netanyahu. “I also did it because I’m in the midst of a very powerful campaign that’s going very well and it (the trip) was not that easy to do.”
In a tweet, Trump said he would reschedule a meeting with Netanyahu “after I become president.”