President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Israel had never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, he “kept my promises”.
Mr Trump energised an audience numbering in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including extensive comments on his promise to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Mr Trump said his predecessors had promised to move the embassy but only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Mr Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Mr Trump also highlighted his decision earlier this year to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
In his speech, the president also claimed there were some Jewish people in America who didn’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people – they don’t loveIsrael enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Mr Trump’s remarks as anti-semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community – even Jewish Republicans,” Mr Keyak said.
Mr Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who voted for Democrats showed “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”.
A number of Jewish groups noted at the time accusations of disloyalty has long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Mr Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Mr Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting Mr Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office”.
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Mr Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for last November’s congressional elections.
Mr Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Mr Trump also criticised Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.
But Mr Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Mr Trump said that he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.