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The Trump show reaches Israel

The carnival of reaction that is the preposterously over long US presidential election period rolls on and on. The Republican candidates seem to be doing their best to outdo each other to find out who can will the most terrible people around.

Religious fanaticism and the legacy of the Tea Party movement have united to bring some very dangerous extremism to the fore. His rallies have become rabble-rousing hate-fests focused on scapegoating sections of those society already most marginalised and discriminated against. Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from the US is the most infamous example.

While there’s no doubt that fear mongering and race-baiting have played an important part in gathering Trump’s bases of support, an important long article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone February noted that those racist themes “comprise a very small part of his usual presentation. His speeches increasingly are strikingly populist in their content.”

Trump’s surge in support represents a populist, isolationist rebellion against the ultra-capitalist Republican establishment, who are too arrogant to realise how despised they are. A large part of Trump’s appeal to his supporters is their feelings (both real and imagined) that they are being screwed over by the political elite. And the Democratic establishment has too often been on board with the same neo-liberal agenda for decades.

As Taibbi put it, Trump’s “pitch is: He's rich, he won't owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won't do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people. He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945”

On foreign policy, Trump has been belligerent, saying of Islamic State, that he would “bomb the shit out of them…and take the oil.” But he also has an isolationist streak, saying that "the war in Iraq was a big f…fat mistake, all right?" According to Taibbi, Trump said that “the George W. Bush administration lied before the war about Iraq having WMDs and that we spent $2 trillion basically for nothing.”

And so we come to the issue of Israel.

In December, he made a badly received speech to the stanchly pro-Israel Republican Jewish Coalition, at which he gaffed: "Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them – perhaps more than any other room I've ever spoken in." He also seemed to hint he would be a neutral negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians, refusing to say whether or not he’d move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But this week, it seems he was forgiven by much of the Israel lobby for his invocation of anti-Semitic tropes: forgiven because he has now made it clear his love for Israeli war crimes and apartheid, and his fealty to the anti-Palestinian fanatics in the Israel lobby. Zionists have a long habit of excusing and forgiving the anti-Semitism of their allies.

His speech at AIPAC was warmly received. Much of it seemed calibrated to appeal to Sheldon Adelson, the multi-billionaire casino magnate and key Republican donor. Adelson is an ultra-right-wing ally of Benjamin Netanyahu. An anti-Palestinian racist, he refuses to acknowledge that Palestinians exist.

Read: America’s annual festival of pandering to Israel

After the misstep at the RJC, Adelson had a word with Trump about how Jerusalem is supposedly the real capital of Israel (no country in the world recognises this). Since then, although Adelson has not yet officially endorsed a candidate, he has become increasingly cosy with Trump.

Adelson’s Israeli newspaper (freesheet Israel Hayoum, the most popular paper in Israel, which often reflects Adelson’s pro-Netanyahu views) has been printing glowing, gushing coverage of Trump.

And so the centrepiece of Trump’s AIPAC speech was to declare that he would recognise as legitimate the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem by moving the US embassy there.

Despite Trump’s claims about funding his own campaign, the reality is that most of its funding comes from donors. So, should Trump win the Republican nomination (polls suggest this is ever increasingly more likely), he will certainly need Adelson as an ally, since he often provides the most financing to the Republican candidate for president.

The Israel lobby overall, however, is likely to be torn between Trump and Hilary Clinton. Clinton is even more pro-Israel than Trump. And she seems more genuine about her support too – far more ideologically committed to Israeli war crimes than the opportunist Trump.

Time will tell whether Israeli’s political elite will take to Trump. There seems little reason why they should not: they can bond over shared love for racist warmongering and anti-Muslim incitement.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

Read: Clinton or Trump, it will be a sad day for the future of occupied Palestine

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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