LAS VEGAS (AP) – President Donald Trump is trying to make the case for Jewish voters to back his re-election as he takes a victory lap with Republican donors in Las Vegas.
Trump was scheduled to speak Saturday at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which supported his 2016 campaign and is preparing to spend millions on his 2020 effort.
Jewish voters in the U.S. have traditionally sided heavily with Democrats, but Republicans are hoping to narrow the gap next year, in part as Trump cites actions that he says show he’s more pro-Israel.
Trump’s speech comes weeks after he suggested Democrats “hate” Jews. His remark came as Democrats engaged in an internal fight over how to respond to comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., that were criticized by some as anti-Semitic.
Before Trump’s appearance, people assembling for the event carried signs with “We are Jews for Trump” and “Trump” written in Hebrew. Dozens of men and several women wore red yarmulkes with “Trump” in white.
As president, Trump has:
—reversed U.S. policy and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel seized from Syria after the Six-Day War of 1967.
—recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv.,
—eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians and closed their representative office in Washington.
—ended the decades-long U.S. practice of opposing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank in what would be the core of a future Palestinian state.
—withdrawn from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had fiercely opposed, and re-imposed stringent new sanctions on the country that Israel regards as an existential threat. Trump is closely aligned with Netanayu, who’s seeking to return power in Tuesday’s national election.
—pulled the U.S. out of several U.N. organizations, the U.N. Human Rights Council and UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias in their agendas.
But Trump was slow to condemn white supremacists who marched violently in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The previous year, he circulated an image of a six-pointed star alongside a photo of Hillary Clinton, a pile of money and the words “most corrupt candidate ever.”
And he told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that he didn’t expect to earn their support because he wouldn’t take their money. “You want to control your politicians, that’s fine,” he said at the time. Ultimately, the group and many of its donors backed Trump.
According to AP Votecast, a survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters and 3,500 Jewish voters nationwide, voters who identified as Jewish broke for Democrats over Republicans by a wide margin, 72 percent to 26 percent, in 2016.
Over the past decade, Jewish voters have shown stability in their partisanship, according to data from Pew Research Center. Jewish voters identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by a roughly 2-1 ratio.
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.