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We spoke to the Jews advising Donald Trump, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In the middle of his victory speech on the night of the Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump said he would end the Israel-Hamas war. 

At a recent debate, Nikki Haley avowed that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. 

At another debate, Ron DeSantis gave a shout-out to the director of the Republican Jewish coalition.

Jewish voters have historically voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from focusing on American Jewry and Israel — both because the Jewish vote in swing states can help determine the election, and because of Israel’s importance to evangelical Christian voters. 

This year, all three remaining Republican candidates take the Jewish community seriously enough that they have their own advisers on Jewish issues — trusted team members who possess deep knowledge both of the candidate and of the Jewish community. These Jewish whisperers fulfill a dual role, both steering the candidate on issues of Jewish concern and acting as a liaison to Jewish voters.

Ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary, we spoke with top Jewish advisers to each of the campaigns. Each, predictably, said their candidate didn’t really need their advice — but each also plays a key role in their respective races for the White House.

David Friedman, lawyer-turned-ambassador for Donald Trump

David Friedman was Trump’s trusted bankruptcy lawyer until a snowbound day in February, 2005, when he said he realized he also was the real estate magnate’s close friend. He recalled that Trump traveled more than three hours through inclement weather to sit shiva with Friedman, who was mourning his father Morris, a prominent New York area rabbi.

In 2016, Friedman was one of a trio of close Jewish advisers to Trump, joining Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and another lawyer, Jason Greenblatt.

Trump named each of the three to roles in his administration, appointing Friedman as ambassador to Israel. Friedman’s past hardball rhetoric about the liberal Israel lobby J Street — he called them “worse than kapos” — almost sank his confirmation, but he was approved for the job on party lines.  

On his watch, Trump enacted a series of policies celebrated by the Israeli government and its supporters. He moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized an Israeli right to settle in the West Bank, recognized Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and brokered the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and four Arab states.  Trump has said Friedman played leading roles in moving the embassy and recognizing the Golan.

As ambassador, Friedman also pivoted from a Trumpian attack dog mode to a more avuncular persona, posting self-deprecating videos about coping with the frantic pace of getting ready for the Jewish holidays in Israel.

Three years after Trump left office amid a firestorm of controversy, Kushner and Greenblatt are no longer advising him. But Friedman endorsed his ex-boss last year. In an interview he said the endorsement — and his current advisory role on the 2024 campaign — were easy calls.

“The most powerful argument, obviously, is his record, and it’s a record not just with regard to Israel but with regard to fighting antisemitism domestically as well,” he said, referring to Trump’s 2019 executive order on federal investigations of universities for antisemitic discrimination.

What about Trump’s reputation for encouraging — or at least not condemning — far-right extremists? Friedman notably called out Trump in 2022 when the former president met with Kanye West, the rapper who made a stream of antisemitic comments, and Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier.

That was an outlier, said Freidman. Friedman spoke with Trump after he made his unhappiness known, but would not describe the phone call. “All I can tell you is that, to state the obvious, that hasn’t happened again,” he said.

How close are they? Trump has confessed to being unnerved when Friedman calls him “Mr. President,” wishing he would go back to Donald.

Fred Zeidman, fundraiser for Nikki Haley

Fred Zeidman has known Nikki Haley since 2010, when he was invited to support her first run for South Carolina governor that year.

“I absolutely just thought the world of her,” he said of Haley, then a state representative in her late 30s. “And so I sort of stayed close. She just seemed like she had it.”

Getting Zeidman on board was a catch for Haley, who was trailing better known South Carolinians at the time. Zeidman is a Texas businessman who was among the first to see presidential material in George W. Bush, and who organized, when Bush was governor, a life-changing tour of Israel for the future president.

Bush had named Zeidman to chair the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, a thankless non-paying job that requires a dedication to the issue — coupled with fundraising chops. Zeidman, who says his mission is “the safety and security of the Jewish people and the state of Israel,” had plenty of both: He has become a sought-after fundraiser for Republican candidates over several election cycles.

In 2016, Zeidman could not stomach Trump’s approach and backed other candidates in the primary.  Like some former Trump skeptics, he became a fan when Trump proved his pro- Israel bona fides (in part via Haley, who served as Trump’s first United Nations ambassador). At one point, Zeidman even tore up a t-shirt saying George W. Bush was the greatest ever president for Israel.

But this year, following Trump’s false claims of winning the 2020 election, and the subsequent Jan. 6 riot, he has again chosen Haley. Zeidman is a dedicated Republican, but also longs for healing. He has been outspoken in praising President Joe Biden’s backing for Israel in its war with Hamas. 

He says he felt intense pride in being an early backer of Haley’s in 2015, after she brought about the removal of the Confederate flag outside the state capitol in the wake of the mass shooting at a Charleston Black church.

“When you look at the things that she did to demonstrate leadership to demonstrate moral clarity, when after the shooting —  You know, she’s got it,” he told JTA this week. “She’s showing what she needs to do. She didn’t capitulate. She stood up of all places in the world at ground zero of the Confederacy.”

Zeidman says that Haley has also shown leadership on how Republicans can handle abortion — sticking to their conservative principles while not demonizing abortion rights advocates.

“She is the first Republican to break ranks on women’s rights, which is a key, key, key, key issue and ought to be a defining issue,” he said.

Zeidman’s son, Jay, also worked for George W. Bush as a liaison to the Jewish community. But he’s departed from his father — and is a leading fundraiser for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. His father describes with pride how they banter about their respective candidates.

Gabe Groisman, Jewish surrogate for Ron DeSantis

Gabe Groisman met Ron DeSantis about a decade ago, when the then-Florida congressman was visiting Israel.

“I immediately understood that he was one of these elected officials who really, really understands the region,” Groisman,  a former mayor of Bal Harbour, told JTA. “It’s not just talking points.”

Groisman credits DeSantis’s time in the Navy, as an attorney at Guantanamo Bay and then on deployment to Iraq, for how he seems to get Israel. DeSantis’ faith, and his diplomas from Yale University and Harvard Law School, don’t hurt, Groisman added.

“It seems like it’s a mix between his military experience as a JAG officer in the Navy and his education and then also his religion — he definitely has a deep religious connection to the state of Israel,” he said. DeSantis has baptized his children with water from the Kinneret, or Sea of Galilee.

That made DeSantis the perfect candidate for Groisman, who feels a calling to persuade Florida’s Jews to vote Republican. Groisman, who accompanied DeSantis when the governor convened his first Cabinet meeting in Israel in 2019, is on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

DeSantis, among the first governors to legislate against dealings with businesses that boycott Israel, is well known for his pro-Israel positions. Groisman wants people to learn more about DeSantis’s domestic Jewish initiatives, including expanding school choice — a potential boon to Jewish day school families — and toughening laws targeting hate crimes against Jews. 

He says he’s frustrated by the press linking DeSantis with issues reviled by liberal Jews, including book bans and his targeting of the LGBTQ community.

“Despite lots of press to the contrary, the fact is, he’s with the Jewish community, time and time again,” Groisman said. “He’s helped pass legislation year in and year out to protect the Jewish community, expanding different laws to give police more power to protect the community.”

Groisman is the kind of Jewish leader Republicans hope will become more prominent: As Bal Harbour mayor from 2016-2022, he used his platform to speak out against Israel boycotts and has been an outspoken critic of campus antisemitism. A lawyer, a philanthropist and a consultant on government relations, he is active in the Israeli-American Council.

He gets an activist strain from his Israeli American mother, Judit, a longtime member of the Women’s International Zionist Organization. 

“Even though she’s getting older, she spends her life as a community organizer,” he said. “Her attitude is, ‘get things done.’

The post We spoke to the Jews advising Donald Trump, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Amid Security Fears, Muslim Access to the Temple Mount During Ramadan Will Be Limited

Palestinians walk at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City May 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

i24 NewsAs the month of Ramadan approaches, concerns over security have prompted Israeli authorities to implement limitations on Muslim access to the Temple Mount site, and Al-Aqusa Mosque.

The decision, made in accordance with recommendations from the Minister of National Security Ben Gvir, comes amidst opposition from the Minister of Defense Gallant, Shin Bet, and the army.

The restrictions include a cap on the number of individuals permitted to enter the site, with additional sorting based on age. While the details regarding the authorization of Palestinians from East Jerusalem are pending, the implementation of security measures proposed by Itamar Ben Gvir, which would allow security forces to intervene in response to provocative behavior, was rejected.

Under the current plan, only Muslim pilgrims aged 60 or above with permits issued by the Shin Bet will be granted access to the Temple Mount. However, domestic intelligence agencies have expressed reservations, fearing that such restrictions could exacerbate tensions and fuel Hamas’s rhetoric about Israel’s intentions to seize the site and deny Muslims access.

This sentiment was echoed by Walid Al-Huashla, an Arab MP from the Ra’am party, who condemned the decision as dangerous and racist. Al-Huashla warned of the potential consequences of the measures, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of capitulating to provocateurs and exacerbating tensions in Jerusalem.

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Unopened Medicine Boxes Bearing Names of Israeli Hostages Found in Hospital Raid

Some of the drugs found at the hospital. Photo: IDF

i24 NewsThe Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet forces executed a strategic mission at Nasser Hospital in Gaza, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of terrorists and the discovery of a cache of weapons hidden within the hospital premises.

Prior to entering the hospital complex, the forces engaged in intense battles, including face-to-face combat and repelling rocket fire from within the hospital compound.

The forces apprehended numerous terrorists and terror suspects who had sought refuge within the hospital including individuals linked to the October 7th massacre. These individuals were subsequently transferred to security forces for further investigation.

IDF releases footage of soldiers uncovering unopened boxes of medicine in Al-Nasser Hospital that were meant to be transferred to Israeli hostages – some of which should have been refrigerated but was found sitting out.

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 18, 2024

During the operation, a substantial quantity of weapons was seized, with some weapons concealed in a vehicle believed to have been used in previous terrorist attacks. Additionally, a vehicle belonging to Kibbutz Nir Oz, which had apparently been stolen, was recovered from the hospital vicinity.

IDF forces also discovered un-opened boxes of medicine bearing the names of Israeli hostages. The packages were found sealed and undistributed, raising concerns about the previous breached agreement in which Qatar would distribute medicine for the chronically ill hostages.

The medical assistance includes essential treatments such as inhalers for asthma patients, medications for diabetics, insulin injections, glucometers, medications for heart disease and blood pressure, as well as treatments for intestinal infections and thyroid gland imbalances.

During talks, Qatar had committed to providing verifiable proof to Israel that the medications will indeed reach the hostages. However the IDF finding the France-sent boxes with medicine, indicates the never reached the hostages.

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The Myth of British Exceptionalism

Britain’s former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts after the general election results of the Islington North constituency were announced at a counting center in Islington, London, Dec. 13, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Hannah McKay.

JNS.orgThat old image of the Jewish family with a packed suitcase at the ready in case they are compelled to suddenly leave their home has returned with a vengeance across Europe.

In France and Germany, home to sizable Jewish communities, the “Should we leave?” debate is raging in earnest. Both of these countries experienced record levels of antisemitic incidents in 2023, most of them occurring after the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel. Similar conversations are also being held in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and Spain—countries with tiny Jewish communities that are nevertheless enduring a painful rise in antisemitism.

What about Britain, though? It’s a pertinent question insofar as there has always been a “British exceptionalism” with regard to the continent. During World War II, the Nazis failed in their quest to conquer the British Isles, in contrast to the rest of Europe. After the defeat of Hitler, the British supported efforts to transform Europe into an economic and political community that eventually became the European Union, even joining it. Yet Britain was never fully at peace with its identity as a European state, and as is well known, the “Brexit” referendum of 2016 resulted in the country’s full-fledged withdrawal from the European Union.

When it comes to antisemitism, however, Britain is very much part of the European rule, not the exception. Again, that’s important because while the British don’t deny that antisemitism is present in their politics and culture, they don’t believe that it’s as venomous as its German or French variations. “It is generally admitted that antisemitism is on the increase, that it has been greatly exacerbated by the war, and that humane and enlightened people are not immune to it. It does not take violent forms (English people are almost invariably gentle and law-abiding),” wrote George Orwell in an essay, “Antisemitism in Britain,” penned towards the war’s close in April 1945.

At the same time, Orwell conceded that British antisemitism was “ill-natured enough, and in favorable circumstances, it could have political results.” To illustrate this point, he offered a selection of the antisemitic barbs that he had encountered over the previous year. “No, I’ve got no matches for you. I should try the lady down the street. She’s always got matches. One of the Chosen Race, you see,” a grumpy tobacconist informed him. “Well, no one could call me antisemitic, but I do think the way these Jews behave is too absolutely stinking. The way they push their way to the head of queues, and so on. They’re so abominably selfish. I think they’re responsible for a lot of what happens to them,” a “middle-class” woman said. Another woman, described by Orwell as an “intellectual,” refused to look at a book detailing the persecution of Jews in Germany on the grounds that “it will only make me hate them even more,” while a young man—a “near-Communist” in Orwell’s description—confessed that he had never made a secret of his loathing of Jews. “Mind you, I’m not antisemitic, of course,” he added.

I’d wager that were Orwell to tackle the same subject today, he would write a similar essay. The rhetoric he quotes echoes eerily in what we are hearing almost 80 years later, particularly the denial that recycling antisemitic tropes makes one an antisemite, as well as the digs against chosenness—because antisemites have never understood (or don’t want to understand) that Jewish “chosenness” is not about racial or ethnic superiority, but a duty to carry out a specific set of Divine commandments.

Last week, the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary security organization serving British Jews, issued its annual report on the state of antisemitism in Britain. The CST has been faithfully issuing these reports since 1984, and over the last few years, it has regularly registered new records for the number of offenses reported. 2023 was the worst year of all; there were a stomach-churning 4,103 incidents reported—an increase of 81% on the previous annual record in 2021, when 2,261 incidents were reported (largely due to that year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas for 11 days in May).

Instructively, the worst month in 2023 was October, in the days immediately following the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on that black day. Oct. 11 was, in fact, the worst day, with 80 incidents reported. As the CST pointed out, “[T]he speed at which antisemites mobilized in the U.K. on and immediately after Oct. 7 suggests that, initially at least, this increase in anti-Jewish hate was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.”

Of course, the present situation in the United Kingdom differs from Orwell’s time for two main reasons. Firstly, in 1945, there was no Jewish state, and antisemitism revolved around cruder tropes invoking supposed Jewish rudeness, clannishness, financial power and so forth. (Even so, Britain was also one of the first Western countries to experience antisemitic rioting linked to the Zionist movement and Israel; in 1947, after two British officers in Mandatory Palestine were executed by the Irgun, or “Etzel,” resistance organization, violence targeting Jewish communities broke out across the United Kingdom, thereby establishing the principle that all Jews, everywhere, are to blame for the alleged evils of Zionism.)

Secondly, in 1945 Britain was still largely a white, Christian society. In the interim, it has become far more diverse and is now home to nearly 4 million Muslims who constitute 6.5 percent of the population. Since the late 1980s—when the Iranian regime issued a fatwa calling for the death of the Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie, alleged to have slandered Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses—what was once a relatively docile population has become politically animated, with the Palestinian cause pushed front and center.

In the four months that have passed since the Hamas atrocities, with weekly demonstrations in support of Hamas in London and other cities, Muslim voices have been disproportionately loud in the opprobrium being piled not just on Israel, but on those Britons—the country’s Jewish community—most closely associated with the Jewish state. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every Muslim, and many of the worst offenders are non-Muslims on the left. Indeed, the Oct. 7 massacres have enabled the return to politics of a particularly odious individual whom I had forlornly believed had been banished to the garbage can of history; George Galloway, an ally of Hamas and one-time acolyte of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who is standing in the forthcoming parliamentary election in the northern English constituency of Rochdale for an outfit called the “Workers Party of Britain,” whose manifesto combines nationalism and socialism, but which would probably balk at the description “national socialist” in much the same way that some antisemites balk at the description “antisemitic.”

British Jews have weathered a great deal in recent years, especially the five years when the Labour Party, the main opposition, was led by the far-left Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn, who has since been turfed out of the party by his successor Sir Keir Starmer. Having survived that, the belief has spread that they can survive anything. But there’s another question to be asked: Is the effort worth it? Increasingly, and worryingly, growing numbers of British Jews are now answering “no.”

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