There are 14 declared Republican presidential candidates, and many of them are publicly expressing support for Israel. But billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump argues, in his typically brash and blunt fashion, that his history with the Jewish people and the Jewish state can set him apart from the rest of the crowded GOP field.
When JNS recently spoke with Trump in his Manhattan office, he eagerly pointed out that he was the grand marshal of New York City’s 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.
He also cited a video endorsement he gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel’s January 2013 election, expressing pride that it was “at the time the only ad done by a celebrity” for Netanyahu.
In addition, Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism in 2009, and her observance of Shabbat with her husband, Jared Kushner (a real estate developer as well as the owner and publisher of the New York Observer newspaper) is well documented.
“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump. “The rest of them are all talk, no action. They’re politicians. I’ve been loyal to Israel from the day I was born. My father, Fred Trump, was loyal to Israel before me. The only one that’s going to give Israel the kind of support it needs is Donald Trump.”
Some other highlights of the interview:
What is your assessment of President Obama’s record on Israel?
I think President Obama is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to Israel. I think he’s set back [Israeli] relations with the United States terribly, and for people and friends of mine who are Jewish, I don’t know how they can support President Obama. He has been very bad for Israel.
What’s your experience with Israel’s business community, which has earned the country the “start-up nation” nickname?
I know so many people from Israel. I have so many friends in Israel. 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 current 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 they’re just toying with us.
What would a good deal with Iran look like?
You’d have to have onsite inspections anytime, anywhere, to start off with, which we don’t have at all. The whole deal is a terrible deal. There’s no way the Iranians are going to adhere to any deal we make. And if you don’t have onsite inspections anytime, anywhere, they [the P5+1 nations] shouldn’t make the deal. And right now I think they’re just tapping the United States along…. We don’t have good negotiators. They have great negotiators, and they’re making us look like fools.
Your recent remarks on Mexican immigrants ignited controversy. Do you stand by your comments, or would you like to clarify them?
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 coming into this country, and not only from Mexico, many of these people – not all, but many – are not people we should let into the country, which obviously is just common sense. Since I’ve made that statement, I’ve been greeted with tremendous support from so many people in the United States. We either have to have a border, or we don’t have a country.
What broader principles should America apply to any negotiations, whether it be 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 they’re good but they’re not. We would have our best people and our smartest people negotiating deals for us.