Jews and pro-Israel advocates, among the 6,000 attendees at the Donald Trump rally on Sunday evening here, were adamant that his previously stated “neutral” stance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict is merely a facade.
Last month during an MSNBC town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, the GOP presidential frontrunner said, “I don’t want to get into it,” about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But he did get into it, a bit, saying he would give brokering a deal between Israelis and Palestinians a shot, and he would be “a neutral guy.” Supporters on Sunday told Haaretz that they don’t buy his neutrality.
“Trump is 100 percent for Israel,” said Marie Gosser, who moved to South Florida from Israel nearly 50 years ago. Along with her husband, Leo Gosser of Boca Raton, she donned a white t-shirt with an American flag beside an Israeli flag that read “United Forever.” Above the flags, both she and her husband had placed a Trump 2016 pin. “He wants to give America back to what it used to be for working people, and he’s for Israel,” she reiterated, explaining why Trump would receive her vote on Tuesday, when Florida holds its primary.
Trump’s comments about Muslims resonate with the Gossers as well. “He’s not racist, he says the truth,” said Gosser, who then proceeded to cite acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims, including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2002 attacks in Bali.
“Trump will support Israel more than Obama,” Gosser said.
The thousands of Trump supporters waited hours for his 8 P.M. arrival at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater in West Boca. Throughout the course of the afternoon, the speakers blazed with eclectic music ranging from Puccini to the Beatles, and rally-goers lined the grassy amphitheater with picnic blankets.
When the former reality television star of “The Apprentice” arrived on “Trump Force One,” as an unnamed announcer called it, and made his appearance after dark on the Trump helicopter, the crowd went wild. People crowded the stage, sporting American flags and Trump 2016 apparel, chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Chaim Bitterman, 20, also questions Trump’s neutral stance on Israel. Sitting on a picnic blanket with his brother, Tzvi Bitterman, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, and two other friends, one donning a kippa and the other wearing a Hebrew necklace reading “Ilana,” Bitterman explained that even though Trump said he’s neutral on Israel, it’s only because “he’s cautious.”
“Like he said [in the MSNBC interview], he needs to leave some things to surprise people, and he definitely won’t be haughty in the negotiations for peace in Israel.” Bitterman believes Trump is only speaking the way he is currently to get elected, but once he’s in office he will dial back. “There’s a difference between a presidential race and actually being president,” he added confidently.
American supporters aren’t alone in their belief that Trump will be a pro-Israel president. According to a recent poll from the Israel Democracy Institute, 61 percent of Israelis consider him a friend of Israel as well.
Annie Wasserman, owner of Meshugga Kennels in Northern New Jersey, chalks that up to his Jewish daughter, Ivanka, who converted and married the Orthodox real estate developer and newspaper owner Jared Kushner. Standing behind a rainbow of red, blue, and white “Trump 2016” and “Make America Great Again” posters, she explained her belief that if someone has an Orthodox Jewish child, “they must have some sense of what’s good for Israel.”
Wasserman believes Trump will be better for Israel than Obama, citing the latter’s brokering of the Iran deal as a threat to Israel’s security. With her thick, silver Star of David pendant necklace glistening in the sun, she added “Israel is one of the reasons I’m here supporting Trump.”
Trump supporters’ reactions to his statements on Israel suggest that they support not what he said, but what he did not say, in the belief – or hope – that he meant something else entirely.
But Yaniv Roggee, who moved to Boca Raton from Israel 16 years ago, is under no illusions.
“Trump said he’s neutral, so he is, but he’s a businessman and he makes deals,” he said. He added adamantly of the Israeli Palestinian negotiations, “If I want anyone to negotiate this deal for me, I want him!”
Sunday night’s rally marked Trump’s second to last political event in Florida before Tuesday’s primaries, where Trump is currently expected to best Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator banking on a win in Florida to remain in the 2016 presidential race.