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Netanyahu defends Trump: He’s not antisemitic, he has Jewish family

In an interview with MSNBC, Netanyahu explains that the former president simply feels unappreciated by American Jews for his unprecedented support for Israel

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday defended former U.S. President Donald Trump days after he threatened American Jews in comments roundly condemned as antisemitic.

Promoting his new book on MSNBC, Netanyahu rejected allegations that Trump’s comments prove he is antisemitic. “He has a Jewish son-in-law and his daughter converted to Judaism. His children and grandchildren are raised as Jews. So I don’t think so.”

The former president has used his daughter’s Jewish family as a push-back against antisemitism allegations, all while alienating the vast majority of American Jews by empowering extremism and white supremacy.

He further used his unprecedented support for Israel as a deflection against accusations of antisemitism, all while invoking dual loyalty tropes and deeming Jews who vote for Democrats as “very disloyal” to Israel. Trump’s opinions of American Jews, however, have deteriorated into stereotypes for decades, touching on tropes of wealth, power and status.

The former president decried American Jews’ failure to appreciate him as evangelical Christians or Israelis do, posting on Truth Social that “U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel. Before it is too late.” His comments were roundly rejected by the White House, Democratic members of Congress and U.S. Jewish organizations and officials.

Netanyahu, however, said Trump’s comments were a matter of him feeling not appreciated for his unprecedented support for Israel. “I think it reflects his frustration, which happens to many politicians when they feel they don’t get all the credit they deserve for the things they did. By the way, I have to tell you, I’m not an exception. All of us belong to that,” he said.

The Trump-Netanyahu relationship was widely viewed as a mind meld during his presidency, earning the adoration of evangelical Christians and the right-wing in both countries, prior to revelations in recent months that the relationship soured after Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on his 2020 electoral victory.

Netanyahu also noted “a certain myopia here on the assessment of American Jews” in Trump’s comments. “American Jews, by and large, and a great majority support Israel warmly, and some – especially in the radical, progressive wing – do not. But the great majority in the Democratic Party do,” he said, taking a dig at his critics in America who view him as an avatar for illiberalism.

The annual non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute survey, released last month, found that 70 percent of Jewish voters support Biden – a seven-percent increase from a Jewish Electorate Institute poll taken earlier this year – while only 19 percent of Jewish voters hold a favorable opinion of Trump. The same survey found that 71 percent of voters said they feel an emotional attachment to Israel, but only consider it the tenth-most important issue behind a wide array of domestic concerns.

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