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Trump: Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, ax NATO funds, back me GOP

AFP-JIJI/AP/reuters

White House hopeful Donald Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there, he declared Monday, shortly before speaking to Washington’s biggest pro-Israeli lobby group.

Israel regards the divided city as its capital but many countries, including its ally the United States, have resisted moving their missions there while its status and borders are still a matter of dispute.

Palestinians also see the city — which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their future capital, and any final peace deal between the peoples would have to include an agreement on sovereignty.

Trump is the front-runner for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination, despite previously risking the wrath of conservative foreign policy voters by suggesting he would be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But on Monday, shortly before addressing the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby in Washington, he told CNN: “There’s nobody more pro-Israel than I am. We have to protect Israel. Israel is so important to us.”

And, asked whether he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Washington. Trump replied: “Yes, I would.

“The fact is I would like to see it moved, I would like to see it in Jerusalem,” he said.

In 1967, with Israel under attack from Arab armies, Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem, driving back Jordanian troops and taking control of some areas with majority Arab populations.

Palestinians still campaign for an Israeli withdrawal from the east of the city — and Jordan still has administrative responsibility for the holy sites on the Temple Mount area of the Old City.

Trump also said the United States should decrease the amount it spends on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We are paying disproportionately. It’s too much and frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea,” Trump said in an interview on CNN.

“We have to reconsider. Keep NATO, but maybe we have to pay a lot less toward NATO itself,” he said.

Trump’s ambitious plan to build a giant wall on the border meanwhile hits close to home for people like Berenice Andrews.

The front door of her family’s home is just feet away from a fence separating the U.S. and Mexico. The home is so close to Mexico that the sounds of schoolchildren at play south of the border can be heard. So can buses along a main thoroughfare on the Mexico side.

As the presidential contest shifts to Arizona and its Tuesday primary, Trump’s wall stirs up a range of emotions among border-area residents like Andrews. For some, nothing short of a wall will do. For her, the fence that currently divides the U.S. and Mexico is a good enough barrier.

“For him to even propose something like that is complete insanity,” Andrews said.

Trump has not provided specifics about the wall but says it would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. He has said he would make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has scoffed at the idea.

There are already about 650 miles of fencing, including the steel fence that divides the sister cities of Nogales in Arizona and Mexico and ranges from 18 feet to 26 feet tall. Much of the border fence was built in the last 15 years as immigration surged. The cost has been in the billions.

The Associated Press interviewed people who live on the border to get their perspective on Trump’s border wall plan:

Everywhere Jim Chilton goes on his sprawling cattle ranch along the Mexican border in Arizona, he has a gun at the ready. Guns at his front door. Guns in his pickup truck. Guns on his horse’s saddle.

For Chilton, illegal immigration and drug smuggling aren’t just things he hears about on the news. He lives with it every day as smugglers routinely cross the border on his property. He supports just about anything to stop it, including Trump’s plan to build a wall from one end of the border to the other.

“We need a wall. We need forward operation bases. We need Border Patrol to be down there all the time,” Chilton said. “We just need to secure that international boundary at the border, period.”

While Chilton has not decided who he will vote for in the presidential election, he certainly supports the idea of building a wall.

“I’m tired of having thousands of people coming through my ranch. I worry about running into a guy with an AK-47 and a bunch of druggers behind him,” Chilton said. “The United States needs to secure its international boundary.”

Artist Kate Drew-Wilkinson lives in Bisbee, Arizona, where she owns a gallery a few miles north of the border. Drew-Wilkinson opposes Trump and his wall proposal, saying he’s a bully who is dangerous to the United States.

With her shop so close to the border, Drew-Wilkinson sees the Mexican people as neighbors and not enemies. She also views Trump’s plans to forcibly remove immigrants and build a wall as not only preposterous but impossible to carry out.

“I don’t think he has a real understanding of the geography or the sheer difficulty of building a wall of that kind,” said Drew-Wilkinson, an England native who moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s. “And it’s ugly. The whole thing is really ugly.”

John Ladd is a cattle rancher whose roughly 15,000-acre ranch abuts the border near Naco, Arizona. Immigrants and drug smugglers frequently sneak into the country on his property, cutting his barbed-wire fences and leaving behind garbage.

He is sick of politics as usual and finds Trump’s lack of political correctness refreshing. He isn’t bothered by Trump’s lack of specifics about how he would build a wall.

Ladd simply likes that Trump has been talking about illegal immigration since the beginning of his campaign.

“That really rang a bell with me and a lot of the ranchers, that finally we had somebody in the political arena that wasn’t worried about being politically correct and talked about the problem that is actually happening,” he said.

Ladd said he isn’t sure the wall will ever actually be built but said he believes Trump will enforce immigration laws.

Hector Orozco has a unique perspective on the border debate because of his occupation and past party affiliation.

He manages a manufacturing company south of the border with offices on the American side, making campaign debates about foreign trade especially relevant. He is also an immigrant from Mexico who became a U.S. citizen and traditionally voted Republican.

As of late, though, Orozco said he can’t get behind the party and its ideology. To him, America’s biggest challenge is the deficit and the economy, not illegal immigration.

“It’s like they’re trying to distract us from the bigger problems,” he said. “(Illegal immigration) is a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem.”

And he said a wall wouldn’t resolve immigration problems in any way.

“People will find a way to improve their lives,” Orozco said. “Regardless of how big the wall is, they’re gonna look for a way because they’re gonna want to make a better life for their family. Not all who cross are criminals.”

Trump on Monday also demanded that his party’s skeptical establishment embrace the inevitability of his presidential nomination as he stormed into Washington. Democrats responded by debuting a multi-pronged assault, shifting their rhetoric and resources against the man they expect to face in a contentious and ugly general election campaign.

“If people want to be smart, they should embrace this movement,” Trump declared at a news conference, shrugging off passionate resistance to his candidacy from both parties.

“I’m an outsider,” Trump said. “They’re not used to this.”

As he often is, Trump was dogged by protests. A group of rabbis planned to boycott his evening speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton touched off her party’s fresh anti-Trump campaign during a morning foreign policy speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Conference, questioning the former reality television star’s readiness to guide the nation through delicate international entanglements.

“We need steady hands,” Clinton told thousands at the pro-Israel gathering. “Not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who-knows-what on Wednesday because everything’s negotiable.”

Israel’s security, she proclaimed, “is nonnegotiable.”

Trump kindled criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats earlier in the year when he pledged to be “sort of a neutral guy” on Israel. While the U.S. is officially neutral in the Middle East conflict, his statement marked a rhetorical departure for U.S. presidential candidates.

Clinton and her allies have readied a three-pronged effort against Trump that targets his character, credentials and controversial statements about women and minorities. That began in earnest on Monday, with labor unions, members of Congress and the presidential candidates all escalating their criticism.

“Let’s be honest — @realDonaldTrump is a loser,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, before launching into eight messages slamming Trump’s “failed businesses,” “petty bullying” and “flagrant narcissism.”

The Massachusetts senator and liberal hero had largely stayed out of the presidential race, avoiding any endorsement of Clinton or her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.

The harsh words came the day before Clinton is likely to extend her overwhelming delegate lead over Sanders in primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. On the Republican side, Trump’s remaining rivals — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — are fighting in Arizona and Utah to stop him from building an insurmountable lead as well.

Shortly after Clinton’s speech, Trump huddled in Washington for a closed-door meeting with about two dozen Republican officials, many of them supporters.

“It’s obvious that Mr. Trump will be our nominee,” said Rep. Chris Collins, one of two New York congressmen openly backing him. “We need to take the fight to Hillary Clinton.”

Added Rep. Scott DesJarlais: “People up here need to take a look at what’s happening and probably get used to the idea that it’s very likely Donald Trump will be our nominee.”

The New York real estate mogul was using a rare day in Washington to woo a Republican establishment that’s been reluctant — and in some cases hell bent — on stopping his rise. Beyond mainstream Republicans, Trump also faces resistance from pro-Israel activists over what they consider a mixed record on the Middle East.