President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Wednesday to interpret Judaism as a nationality and not just a religion, a move that the Trump administration believes will fight what they perceive as anti-Semitism on college campuses, a White House official said.
The impending order was first reported by The New York Times.
It's an order that would allow Trump to take further steps to combat anti-Israel sentiments and divestment movements on college campuses by requiring colleges and universities to treat those movements as discriminatory in order to keep their funding.
The move would trigger a portion of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin, according to senior administration officials. The Department of Education can withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that discriminates based on race, colour or national origin, according to the Civil Rights Act.
Religion is not covered in that portion of the law so the administration would have to interpret Judaism as a nationality in order to potentially punish universities for violations.
Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, pushed for the move, according to the Times.
The definition of anti-Semitism will be adopted from the State Department, whose definition was originally formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the senior administration officials said.
The executive order comes just days after several Jewish groups criticized Trump over a speech he delivered Saturday to an Israeli-American organization. The groups accused him of using anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Speaking at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida, Trump suggested that many of the attendees at the event are wealthy and in real estate, and that their wealth would guide their votes in the 2020 presidential election.
“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You're brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me, you have no choice,” he said. The President also admonished some Jewish Americans for not loving Israel “enough.”
Trump drew similar condemnation during his 2016 presidential campaign when he told a group of Jewish Republicans, “You're not going to support me because I don't want your money.”
And while the US had traditionally called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump has offered public flexibility on the matter and supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last month, the Trump administration announced a major reversal of the US’ longstanding policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, rejecting a 1978 State Department legal opinion that deemed the settlements “inconsistent with international law.”
The announcement, which breaks with international law and consensus, is the latest in a string of hardline, pro-Israeli moves that are likely to inflame tensions between the Trump administration and Palestinians.
The policy reversal was hailed by Netanyahu, who faces possible criminal indictment in three corruption probes, as well as being involved in a fight to remain Israel's leader, after inconclusive elections.
CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Nicole Gaouette, Chandelis Duster and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.