IN THE middle of a phone interview with Jewish News Service on June 26, billionaire real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves his desk to scan the wall of his office for awards he has received from the Jewish community.
Trump reads the text of some relevant plaques before returning to his desk. But before this reporter can move to the next question, Trump eagerly points out that he was the grand marshal of New York Citys annual Salute to Israel Parade (now the Celebrate Israel Parade) in 2004 at a time when it was quite dangerous to do that and a pretty tough time for Israel, in the middle of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising against Israel).
He also cites a video endorsement he gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Jewish states January, 2013, election, expressing pride that it was at the time the only ad done by a celebrity for Netanyahu.
What does all of this have to do with the 2016 American presidential election? President Barack Obama won 78% of Jewish votes when he was first elected in 2008, and despite a rocky relationship with Israel, he garnereda very high, but declining, 69% of the Jewish vote in 2012. Trump touts his close relationship with Israel and the Jewish community as the reason he believes he can outperform Republican contenders of both the past and present among Jewish voters.
UNLIKE THE name of his reality TV show, Trump is no apprentice when it comes to the Jewish faith. Trumps daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism in 2009, and her observance of Shabbat with her husband Jared Kushner (a well-known real estate developer as well as the owner and publisher of the New York Observer) is well-documented.
I have great respect for [the Shabbat traditions], and I see Ivanka during Saturday, and from Friday evening on through Saturday night, she wont take phone calls and they live a very interesting life, Trump said.
And its actually a beautiful thing to watch, with Jared and Ivanka. In a very hectic life, it really becomes a very peaceful time. So theres something very nice about it.
Many of the 14 declared Republican presidential candidates publicly express support for Israel, but Trump argues in his typically brash and blunt fashion that his history with the Jewish people and the Jewish state set him apart from the rest of the crowded GOP field.
The only [candidate] thats going to give real support to Israel is me, said the 69-year-old Trump. The rest of them are all talk, no action. Theyre politicians.
Ive been loyal to Israel from the day I was born. My father, Fred Trump, was loyal to Israel before me. The only one thats going to give Israel the kind of support it needs is Donald Trump.
Below is the rest of the Trump interview:
What is your assessment of President Obamas record on Israel?
I think President Obama is one of the worst things thats ever happened to Israel. I think hes set back [Israeli] relations with the United States terribly, and for people and friends of mine who are Jewish, I dont know how they can support President Obama. He has been very bad for Israel.
Whats your experience with Israels business community?
First of all, the Israelis are great businesspeople. They have a natural instinct for business and their start-ups are fantastic. I deal with the Israelis all the time, and I deal with people who are Jewish all the time, whether they are Israeli or not.
Knowing what you know from negotiations in the business world, how would you approach the nuclear talks with Iran?
I would double-up and triple-up the sanctions, and I would make them (the Iranians) want to make a deal. Right now theyre just toying with us.
What would a good deal with Iran look like?
Youd have to have onsite inspections anytime, anywhere, to start off with, which we dont have at all. The whole deal is a terrible deal. Theres no way the Iranians are going to adhere to any deal we make.
If you dont have onsite inspections anytime, anywhere, they shouldnt make the deal.
Right now I think theyre just tapping the United States along. We [America] have a bunch of babies negotiating. We dont have good negotiators. They have great negotiators, and theyre making us look like fools.
What do you think about America funding the Palestinian Authority to the tune of $500 million per year?
Im not exactly thrilled by it. Its obvious. We have to help people that respect us, that want things to be done and properly done. Not just there [the Palestinian Authority], were giving money to all sorts of groups and people and countries that take advantage of the US, so its something that Im not thrilled about.
Your recent remarks on Mexican immigrants ignited controversy. Do you stand by your comments, or would you like to clarify them for Jewish voters who prioritize immigration as an election issue?
I have great respect for Mexico and I love the Mexican people. I have many friendships in Mexico and with Mexican people.
But Mexico is totally out-negotiating the United States, at our borders and with respect to foreign trade.
The people that are coming into this country, and not only from Mexico, many of these people not all but many are not people that we should let into the country, which obviously is just common sense. Since Ive made that statement, Ive been greeted with tremendous support, from so many people in the US. We either have to have a border, or we dont have a country.
If you won the Republican presidential primary, who would you choose as a running mate?
Too early to say. Were doing very well, but well see what happens. I will be looking and watching, but its just too early to say.
How did you see the Chinese governments responding to your comments accusing it of stealing American jobs through currency manipulation?
Look, China is like Mexico. Theyre taking advantage of the US. Theyre laughing all the way to the bank. Of course theyre going to respond, and they said essentially, Oh no, we love our trading partner, the US. Well of course they should love us, theyre making a fortune off of us. But we make nothing off of them. That would change if I become president.
What broader principles should America apply to any negotiations, be they with Iran, China, Mexico or other nations?
I would have the best negotiators in the world, and we have them in this country, I know many of them. I know the good ones, I know the bad ones, I know the overrated ones, I know the ones that think theyre good but theyre not. We would have our best people and our smartest people negotiating deals for us.