Throughout his remarks to a group of Jewish Republicans on Saturday, President Donald Trump seemed to address the Jewish Americans in the audience as if they were Israelis, Business Insider reports. The mischaracterization occurred multiple times throughout the speech.
First, in referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president said “your prime minister,” implying that the gathered American Jews in attendance were beholden to Netanyahu, as if Israeli citizens, rather than to Trump himself, as American citizens and residents, which they are.
Later in the speech, Trump further conflated those in the audience, again speaking as if they were, in fact, a group of visiting Israeli Jews, with personal affiliations with Israel as opposed to the United States.
“Democrats are advancing the most extreme partisan agenda by far in American history… people aren’t fighting for Israel in Congress,” the president said. “If implemented, the Democrats’ radical agenda would destroy our economy, cripple our country, and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves. Can’t do that.”
The last portion, leaving “Israel out there all by yourselves,” left many confused as Trump again addressed the crowd as if speaking to resident Israelis.
The peculiar misstatements come on the heels of substantial backlash against Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, who made statements suggesting that many lawmakers in the United States exercised a “dual loyalty” to Israel and indicating that the most adamant pro-Israel congresspeople were in fact demanding allegiance to a foreign country, referring to Israel.
Trump quickly attacked Omar for her statements and demanded that she be removed from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Throughout his remarks to the Jewish Republicans, Trump echoed a common theme, and one that was certainly the type of sentiment that Omar was talking about in the first place: that American lawmakers needed to do better in working in support of Israeli interests.
Trump touted his own accomplishments when it comes to Israel, noting his announcement of Israel’s ownership over the Golan Heights and touting his strong relationship with Netanyahu. Netanyahu has generally returned the sentiment, comparing Trump to such historical figures as Cyrus the Great and Harry Truman.
Even as Trump speaks with such admiration for Israel, he has been widely criticized for his handling of Jewish Americans at home, including a number of statements and actions that have been viewed as distinctly anti-semitic. Trump and his campaign have, more than once, promoted anti-semitic memes online, and in 2017, he was apparently unwilling to condemn attendees of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that left one woman dead.