Donald Trump courts US expats in new Israel campaign

Republican Party looking to gain swing state votes from US-Israeli citizens, estimates 85% will go with its candidate

Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

Republican nominee Donald Trump has launched a campaign to attract US voters living in Israel in what marks the first US presidential campaign in history where a nominee is specifically targeting the Israeli-US vote.

In the past few weeks, Trump supporters have launched a website and a Facebook page.

Now they plan on setting up stands in shopping malls across the country, particularly in cities with a high concentration of US voters, including Jerusalem, Modiin, Ra’anana and Beit Shemesh. They will be staffed by local volunteers, who will distribute Trump publicity materials with the slogan, “Trump: In Israel’s Interest.”

There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens eligible to vote in the upcoming US elections, Channel 10 reported. The group will particularly target Americans who hail from swing states, such as Florida and Pennsylvania. According to the Republicans, there are approximately 30,000 eligible voters in Israel from such states.

The Republicans estimated that 85 percent of Americans in Israel will vote for Trump. According to an exit poll conducted by another get-out-the-vote group, iVote Israel, that is the percentage that voted for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012.

Trump’s Israel campaign focuses primarily on his ostensibly pro-Israel platform. It also mentions his Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and Jewish grandchildren.

A senior adviser to Trump met with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem last week and was given a diplomatic-security briefing by officials.

Trump, whose campaign has been plagued by inconsistencies on many subjects, has made contradictory statements with regard to Israel. During the primaries he claimed that he would remain neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, refusing to assign blame to either side.

Trump has questioned Israel’s commitment to peace, while at the same time suggesting the Jewish state does not have a negotiating partner in the Palestinians. He has also called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a good friend.”

At a presidential candidates forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2015, the real estate magnate said, “I don’t know that Israel has the commitment to make it, and I don’t know that the other side has the commitment to make it.”

Trump has remained on the fence when asked about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, yet claims he is firmly committed to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

He is a strong supporter of the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank and strongly endorsed the settlements.

Trump has many Jewish connections and friends, yet has been embroiled in anti-Semitic controversies including refusing to denounce support from the Ku Klux Klan, being seen as the last hope of white supremacists, and using an image which many claimed to be anti-Semitic in a campaign attack on his Democratic rival, Hilary Clinton.

Trump’s policies have been denounced by former Israeli president Shimon Peres and Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban, among others.

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