Pom­peo’s Jerusalem speech re­ally about Trump us­ing Is­rael to land Evan­gel­i­cal, not Jewish, votes

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Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, with an iconic view of Jer­sualem’s Old City in the back­ground, touted Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­eign pol­icy record in a Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion speech on Tues­day, a pitch aimed more at Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians than Jewish vot­ers.

Pom­peo’s video­taped speech, from a King David Ho­tel bal­cony, trig­gered con­tro­versy: He is the first sec­re­tary of state in mem­ory to speak at a po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion — and he did so while on an of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment swing to Is­rael, Su­dan, the United Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain.

Trump’s dis­dain of tra­di­tional diplo­macy may “not have made him pop­u­lar in ev­ery for­eign cap­i­tal, but it’s worked,” Pom­peo said.

Turn­ing to the Mideast and Iran, Pom­peo noted that Trump or­dered the strike killing Ira­nian ter­ror­ist Qasem Soleimani — and that un­der Trump, the U.S. ex­ited “from the dis­as­trous nu­clear deal with Iran,” a move ap­plauded by the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment.

More­over, “Trump moved the U.S. Em­bassy to this very city of God, Jerusalem, the right­ful cap­i­tal of the Jewish home­land. And just two weeks ago, the pres­i­dent bro­kered a his­toric peace deal be­tween Is­rael and the United Arab Emi­rates. This is the deal that our grand­chil­dren will read about in their his­tory books,” he said.

Trump won a first term in 2016 with over­whelm­ing sup­port of white born-again or Evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers, exit polls showed. In 2020 he needs to equal or sur­pass that turnout to beat Joe Bi­den.

Those same sur­veys show about three­quar­ters of the Jewish vote was for Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Trump is bank­ing on two is­sues to crank up the Evan­gel­i­cal vote — ap­point­ing an­tiabor­tion fed­eral judges and his U.S.-Is­rael poli­cies.

He an­nounced on Aug. 13 a peace deal be­tween Is­rael and the United Arab Emi­rates — a ma­jor Trump for­eign pol­icy achieve­ment. Pom­peo is in the re­gion try­ing to land more Arab na­tion part­ners, so Trump can pre­side over a sign­ing cer­e­mony at the White House be­fore the elec­tion.

How do I con­clude that Pom­peo’s speech from Is­rael is about the Evan­gel­i­cal vote? Trump told me so.

He is nakedly trans­par­ent when he talks about Is­rael and U.S. Jewish and Evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers.

As re­cently as Aug. 17, dur­ing a cam­paign speech in Oshkosh, in swing state Wis­con­sin, Trump bragged about re­lo­cat­ing the U.S. Em­bassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to a “Re­li­gious Land­scape Study” of Wis­con­sin from the non-par­ti­san PEW Re­search Cen­ter, Jews make up 1% of Wis­con­sin adults com­pared to 22% iden­ti­fy­ing as Evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant.

“And we moved the cap­i­tal of Is­rael to Jerusalem,” Trump said to cheers from a crowd in Oshkosh, with a tiny Jewish pop­u­la­tion. He botched the line since what he did in 2017 was move the em­bassy af­ter the U.S. rec­og­nized Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael.

“And so the Evan­gel­i­cals — you know, it’s amaz­ing with that — the Evan­gel­i­cals are more ex­cited about that than Jewish peo­ple. … It’s re­ally, it’s in­cred­i­ble.”

That wasn’t the first time Trump por­trayed U.S. Jews as un­grate­ful.

In Au­gust 2019, Trump said Jewish Democrats are “dis­loyal” to “Jewish peo­ple” and to Is­rael. “I think any Jewish peo­ple that vote for a Demo­crat, I think it shows ei­ther a to­tal lack of knowl­edge or great dis­loy­alty,” he said.

On Tues­day, be­fore Pom­peo’s ad­dress, I in­ter­viewed Dan Shapiro, an am­bas­sador to Is­rael un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. He is now based in a sub­urb of Tel Aviv. Shapiro was raised in Cham­paign. His folks live in Chicago with a sis­ter in Evanston.

While “it’s com­pletely ap­pro­pri­ate any­time, for the sec­re­tary of state to come to Is­rael,” Shapiro said, “there’s no prece­dent for a sit­ting sec­re­tary of state speak­ing at a po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion for a very good rea­son.

“It politi­cizes the of­fice. It politi­cizes U.S. for­eign pol­icy, and it politi­cizes key re­la­tion­ships, in this case, Is­rael, and that’s by de­sign. They want to make Is­rael a wedge is­sue in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.”

The impact? While Pom­peo may be able to score some points with Evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers, he may not get the po­lit­i­cal pay­off he thinks he de­serves from Jewish vot­ers.

Said Shapiro, “Jewish vot­ers ac­tu­ally, by and large, value Is­rael be­ing a bi­par­ti­san point of con­sen­sus and not a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.”

Foot­note

The Bi­den cam­paign is work­ing to turn out and fundraise from Jewish Democrats.

On Wed­nes­day, Bi­den’s run­ning mate, Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, and her hus­band, Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, host a fundraiser ti­tled a “Vir­tual Con­ver­sa­tion with the Amer­i­can Jewish Com­mu­nity.”

On Thurs­day, daugh­ter Ash­ley Bi­den hosts a vir­tual event for young Jewish women.

On Fri­day, Emhoff head­lines the “Jewish Florid­i­ans Vir­tual Sum­mit,” with Florida the swing state with the most Jewish vot­ers.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE COM­MIT­TEE ON AR­RANGE­MENTS FOR THE 2020 REPUB­LI­CAN NA­TIONAL COM­MIT­TEE VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo ad­dresses the vir­tual Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in a pre­re­corded video from Jerusalem on Tues­day.

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