Rabbi Shmuley Boteach called Donald Trump “a phenomenal friend” to Israel, dismissing the presumptive Republican nominee’s previous claims of neutrality in peace negotiations with Palestinians as irrelevant.
The outspoken celebrity rabbi said conflicting statements on the Jewish state made by Trump should be ignored and that the unequivocal support of Israel that the candidate expressed at his address at AIPAC’s policy conference in March should be taken as representative of his views.
“I think the definitive opinion he’s expressed is his speech before AIPAC — he expressed no form of neutrality whatsoever,” Boteach told the Forward.
Prior his speech at the pro-Israel group’s conference, Trump said he would be neutral when arbitrating between Israelis and Palestinians. He also implied he expects Israel to pay back military aid it has received from the U.S.
Boteach cited conversations with Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who Boteach extolled as a “Kiddush Hashem” (a sanctification of God’s name), as having convinced him of Trump’s views on the Jewish state. Kushner, Boteach said, “is rock solid on Israel,” and serves as an advisor to Trump.
Boteach was speaking hours before a “Jewish Values” award gala he organizes was set to begin, whose guests include Sheldon Adelson, a major contributor to Republican candidates. Adelson was seen as signaling support for Trump in March through positive coverage of the candidate in Israel Hayom, an Israeli newspaper he controls and funds.
The prominent rabbi conceded that he does not agree with Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country, but emphasized that on the two most important issues for him — national security and Israel — the real estate mogul was the strongest candidate.
Boteach also said Trump should not be held accountable for anti-Semitic and racist supporters. The real estate mogul has faced criticism for not dealing with bigotry among some of his supporters, including hateful statements and call to violence against Jews.
“Every candidate is going to attract unsavory characters — that’s what happens in politics,” Boteach said, “I’m not going to hold him accountable for racist supporters.”
After failing to initially condemn a Wednesday endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Trump disavowed the white supremacist Thursday.
Josefin Dolsten is a news fellow at the Forward. She writes about politics and culture, and edits the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.