Monday 19 March 2018

Trump and Clinton make bids for the influential Jewish vote

Donald Trump walks on stage to a rapturous welcome at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, at the weekend. REUTERS
Donald Trump walks on stage to a rapturous welcome at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, at the weekend. REUTERS

Harriet Alexander

Donald Trump has used a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appeal to conservative Christian voters, attempting to portray himself as presidential on the eve of a vital debate.

Mr Trump's campaign released a statement after the Trump Tower gathering, saying the two men spoke for an hour about terrorism, Iran, Isil and cybersecurity.

There was no mention of the two-state solution, which proposes an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

The Republican presidential candidate announced that, under his government, the United States "will finally accept the long-standing congressional mandate to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel".

On Saturday night, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who has become one of Mr Trump's closest advisers, announced that he no longer believed in the two-state solution.

"You can make peace between the two of them, but you can't treat them the same," he said, condemning moral equivalence between the two parties.

The US, he said, should "reject the whole notion of a two-state solution in Israel".

Mr Trump's two top Israel aides, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, have also advised the candidate to abandon hopes of two states for two peoples living peacefully side by side, according to the 'Jerusalem Post'.

Mr Trump also appears to have discussed his notorious wall between Mexico and the US, with the campaign stating that they "discussed at length Israel's successful experience with a security fence that helped secure its border".

The Republican also repeated his pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv if he's elected to the White House.

"Mr Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3,000 years, and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel," the campaign said.

That promise has been made in various forms since at least 1992. Three years later Congress passed a law calling for the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem by 1999, but presidents of both parties have always waived the requirement.

George W Bush promised in 2000 to start the move "as soon as I take office", but did not.

Mrs Clinton also met with Mr Netanyahu - who she has known for many years. Unlike Mr Trump, she pledges to continue President Barack Obama's policy of supporting a two-state solution.

However, the Democrat nominee has assiduously courted Jewish voters, with her campaign website making much of her three-decade public commitment to Israel, dedicating an entire page to her personal, diplomatic and legislative history with the country under the headline: "Hillary Clinton and Israel: a 30-year record of friendship, leadership and strength."

Mr Netanyahu has sought to project neutrality this time after perceptions arose that he favoured Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama back in 2012.

The meetings yesterday will doubtless offer more ammunition for both candidates in this evening's debate. Billed as 'The Super Bowl of Debates' - with 100 million expected to tune in - a poll was released yesterday showing a virtual dead heat in the race for the White House.

The 'Washington Post'- ABC News poll showed Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump tied among registered voters at 41pc, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson at 7pc and Jill Stein, of the Green Party, at 2pc.

Viewers are also eager to see if Mrs Clinton could come face-to-face with her husband's former mistress, after Mr Trump speculated that he could invite Gennifer Flowers to the presidential debate.

In a sign of how dirty the election campaign has become, Mrs Clinton has reportedly invited a nemesis of Mr Trump's, businessman Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, to attend. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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