WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump told American Jews that his vice president had great affection for “your country,” insinuating a dual loyalty to Israel.
“I want to thank Vice President Mike Pence,” Trump said Thursday at one of two White House Hanukkah parties. “A tremendous supporter — a tremendous supporter of yours. And Karen. And they go there and they love your country. They love your country. And they love this country. That’s a good combination, right?”
At least one person present agreed, shouting “Yes!”
Others not at the event were not so enthused about the insinuation, however unintentional, of dual loyalties.
“If Obama had said that, many of today’s attendees would have screamed bloody murder,” Eric Columbus, an Obama administration Justice Department official, said on Twitter.
Mr. President, THIS is my country. https://t.co/RPC6M8n4eR
— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) December 7, 2018
The audience, which included Israeli envoy Ron Dermer and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, also erupted into cheers when Trump mentioned his decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and, earlier this year, to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Trump announced the decision exactly a year earlier, on December 6, 2017, breaking with decades of US policy, and drawing vociferous protests from around the world. He is routinely cheered when mentioning the embassy move, which actually took place on May 14, during speeches in the US heartland.
At the White House, Trump also recognized eight Holocaust survivors, saying they had endured “evil beyond description.”
The president also mentioned the fatal October shooting of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue. He said that after that “sinister” killing, “we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere.” Trump added that we “must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.”