US President Donald Trump on Tuesday lashed out at Democrats over what he claimed was their lack of support for Israel.
He said that American Jews who intend to vote for his rival party in the 2020 elections would be displaying “great disloyalty.”
“I think any Jewish people who would vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania.
Polls found that 76-79 percent of Jews voted for Democrats in November’s midterm elections, mirroring a long history of backing the party.
Trump was commenting on the uproar in Washington over Israel’s barring of Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country due to their pro-Palestinian activism.
Tlaib and Omar, who have sparred with Trump over Israel and a number of other issues, on Monday accused the US president of encouraging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban them, and called to cut the $3 billion in US assistance to Israel until it halts settlement building and ensures equal rights for Palestinians.
“I would not cut off aid to Israel,” Trump said. “I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation. Five years, the concept of even talking about this, even three years ago, of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people, I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.”
“Where has the Democratic party gone…. where they’re defending these two people over the State of Israel,” Trump said. “I think any Jewish people who would vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
Israel granted Omar and Tlaib permission to enter in principle last month, but backtracked last week and banned them from visiting under a 2017 law allowing it to expel or deny entry to anyone who backs the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
The decision was made less than two hours after Trump tweeted that it would be a “show of weakness” if Israel gave them permission to come, and the reversal was widely seen as the result of pressure from the US president.
Banning the lawmakers fueled a partisan fire over the Jewish state that has been raging in the United States, and Trump has appeared eager to fan the flames.
After the ban was announced, Trump celebrated the decision on Twitter, framing the issue in decidedly political terms: “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the faces of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!”