Rivlin says Israel must be left out of US political fight

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke to a top US Democrat in a bid to ensure enduring bipartisan support for Israel in Washington is not undermined, his office said Wednesday.

A statement from Rivlin's office said he spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, stating his concerns, after US President Donald Trump said American Jews who vote Democratic are either ignorant or disloyal.

"We must keep the State of Israel above political disputes and make every effort to ensure that support for Israel does not become a political issue," the statement quoted him as saying.

Asked who initiated the call, Rivlin's office told AFP, "this call was scheduled according to... mutual wishes."

Trump has been lashing out anew against Democrats over congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom support a boycott of the Jewish state over its treatment of the Palestinians.

"Where has the Democratic party gone?" Trump said to reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

"I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."

His comments drew fierce rebuke from US Jewish groups.

"It's long overdue to stop using Jews as a political football," tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Executive Director at the Jewish Democratic Council of America Halie Soifer said Trump "has no right to tell Jewish Americans he knows what is best for us or to demand our loyalty."

Rivlin's office said he quoted President John F. Kennedy in his talk with Pelosi.

"Friendship with Israel is not a partisan matter," he said. "It is a national commitment."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch ally of Trump, has not commented on the US president's comments.

Israel earlier this month barred Omar and Tlaib from entering the country on the grounds that they support the boycott campaign.

Trump had urged the Jewish state to block the two.

Israel later said Tlaib could visit her Palestinian grandmother in the occupied West Bank, but it set conditions. She eventually said she could not meet those conditions.

Israeli media warned that the affair could cause US Democrats to rally around the two Muslim congresswomen, to Israel's detriment.