“We must not intervene in the political disagreements in the United States. We keep good relations with both the Democrats and Republicans and we must continue to do so,” said Israeli cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz, commenting on the “Jewish loyalty” uproar.
Israeli officials are staying out of a domestic fray in the U.S. over comments made by President Donald Trump about the Democratic Party and Jewish voters.
Referring to the refusal of Democrats to censure Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) despite their virulent anti-Israel positions, Trump said in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday:
“Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel. And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
The comment sparked a new debate between Democrats who say the “disloyalty” comment is anti-Semitic and those who disagree.
“This is yet another example of Donald Trump continuing to weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism,” charged Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
“At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have increased — due to the president’s emboldening of white nationalism — Trump is repeating an anti-Semitic trope,” she added.
“President Trump is right, it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion,” the Republican Jewish Coalistion said in a tweet. “The @GOP, when rarely confronted w/anti-Semitism of elected members always acts swiftly and decisively to punish and remove.”
In Israel, meanwhile, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on Trump’s remarks,” reported the Israeli Ynet news website.
“We must not intervene in the political disagreements in the United States. We keep good relations with both the Democrats and Republicans and we must continue to do so,” said Israeli cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz on Israeli Kan public radio.
Despite the polarized situation within Congress and between the president and Republicans, Israel has tried to maintain a position of inclusiveness.
“We have supporters and friends in both parties, among the Democrats and Republicans, Jews and non-Jews, and we embrace them all,” said Steinitz in the Israeli public radio interview.
Trump has been a close ally of Netanyahu, withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, establishing the U.S. embassy in the city, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Large signs can be seen in various locations in Israel ahead of the September 17 parliamentary election with a photograph of Netanyahu and Trump together, promoting the incumbent prime minister’s candidacy for re-election.
However, Israeli officials have argued that it is a matter of promoting the relationship between an Israeli prime minister and U.S. president and not an issue of preferring either party in Congress over the other.