US President Donald Trump on Wednesday tried to clarify that when he said Jews who vote for Democrats are being “disloyal,” he meant they were abandoning their support for Israel and the Jewish people.
Trump spoke to reporters as he departed from the White House in Washington and answered questions about his comments made the day before, which were widely condemned as employing anti-Semitic tropes of dual loyalty.
“If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump told US media. “Only weak people would say other than that.”
He also said he hadn’t heard of anyone calling his remarks from Tuesday anti-Semitic.
“I have been responsible for a lot of great things for Israel,” Trump also said. “No president has ever done anywhere close to what I’ve done” for Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin spoke Wednesday with House Speaker Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to impress upon her that the Jewish state’s ties with the United States are entirely bipartisan.
“The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party,” Rivlin told Pelosi.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly commented on Trump’s accusations against Jewish Democrat voters.
On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at Democrats over what he claimed was their lack of support for Israel, suggesting that American Jews who intend to vote for his rival party in the 2020 elections would be displaying “great disloyalty.”
“I think any Jewish people who would vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania.
Trump was commenting on the uproar in Washington over Israel’s barring of Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country due to their support for boycotting Israel.
Omar herself caused uproar in March when she suggested that Israel’s supporters wanted American lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to a foreign country.
Omar was criticized by some as anti-Semitic, and her remarks was said to have revived a trope of dual Jewish loyalties. At the time, Trump called on her to resign from the House or at least quit her post on the Foreign Affairs Committee over her comments.
American Jewish leaders have condemned Trump over his Tuesday remarks.
“It’s unclear who @POTUS is claiming Jews would be “disloyal” to, but charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League earlier, calling on the president to stop “using Jews as a political football.”
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called his comments “outrageous.”
“This is a free country. Jews aren’t a monolithic bloc, nor single-issue voters. Some will vote Democratic, others Republican. As Americans, that’s their right. Please keep loyalty out of it,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly voiced his frustration over his unpopularity among American Jews, despite his close support for Israel and his steps to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
Indeed, more than 75 percent of American Jews voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, according to exit polls. That marked a four percentage point increase from the percentage of Jewish voters (71%) who pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Agencies contributed to this report.