Congratulating Trump, Jewish groups call on president-elect to unite the country
(JTA) — Donald Trump’s first priority must be to “address the wounds of an extraordinarily divisive contest,” the American Jewish Committee said in a congratulatory statement — one of several Jewish groups that called on the president-elect to serve as a uniting force.
“American democracy has spoken after a long and bitterly fought campaign,” David Harris, the group’s CEO, said in a statement released Wednesday morning following Trump’s upset of Hillary Clinton. “We wish President-elect Trump well as he prepares to assume the highest position in the land and the most powerful political position on the planet. And we also extend our best wishes to Secretary Hillary Clinton for her many years of distinguished public service to our nation, the strong campaign she ran, and, I would add, her friendship to AJC.”
The AJC said Trump must defend America’s diversity “against any further attempts to demonize or stigmatize on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender or faith,” and called for the United States to “assert strong global leadership, which only our country is capable of.”
The Anti-Defamation League congratulated Trump in a statement emphasizing the importance of acceptance and tolerance.
“We welcome Mr. Trump’s pledge that he will be president for all Americans, and that he will seek the common ground and reconciliation that has been the hallmark of American elections and the transitions that follow,” said the group’s national chair, Marvin Nathan, and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, in a statement released early afternoon Wednesday.
“Democracy is more than simply what occurs at the ballot box or during a particular election. Democracy encompasses the full collection of our laws, our norms and institutions that enshrine and protect our freedoms. That work begins today to reinvigorate the idealism of e Pluribus Unum and to ensure that America remains a land of economic opportunity and personal freedom for all people regardless of their gender, race, class, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political preference.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations sent a similar message, congratulating Trump and calling on him to respect the American democratic tradition.
“The strength of our great nation is in the enduring dedication of the American people to our pluralistic democracy and institutions,” the group’s leaders said in a statement Wednesday. “The Conference stands ready to contribute to the hard work of healing the divides in our country which were revealed at times in stark terms during the campaign.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee quoted from Trump’s speech at the pro-Israel lobbying group’s annual conference in May in a statement congratulating the newly elected president. At the conference, Trump had “made clear his commitment on issues critical to the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the group said in its statement released early afternoon Wednesday.
AIPAC also praised the newly formed House of Representatives and Senate — both of which will be under Republican control — as “the most pro-Israel Congress ever.”
The Jewish Federations of North America congratulated Trump on his victory.
“We very much look forward to working closely with you and your administration on uniting our country and on the important challenges ahead of us all,” the organization wrote in a letter to Trump. JFNA added: “[W]e particularly appreciate your message of conciliation, and your pledge to reach out to all Americans to bring this country together.”
The Orthodox Union in a statement said it looked forward “to working with President Trump and his Administration on issues of critical importance to our community, including strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, expanding educational opportunity and choice for all American children, defending America’s ‘first freedom’ of religious liberty and more,” the statement said.
Separately, Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council settlement body and mayor of the Efrat settlement, also congratulated Trump and invited him to the West Bank.
“I invite him to become the first active U.S. President to visit our flourishing communities and witness how our presence in Judea and Samaria is key to ensure a peaceful future for millions of Palestinians and Israelis,” Revivi said in a statement.
Last month, Revivi hosted several dozen Palestinians and Jewish Israelis for a peace event held in his sukkah during the harvest holiday. Four of the Palestinian men who participated in the event were arrested and held for several days by Palestinian Authority security forces.
ADL decries Trump choice of Bannon as top adviser: ‘ A sad day’
(JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League decried Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top White House adviser, saying Bannon’s association with “unabashed antisemites and racists” is disqualifying.
Bannon, longtime CEO of the right-wing Breitbart news website, a clearinghouse of “alt-right” views, joined Trump’s presidential bid late in the campaign and helped lead it to victory.
The ADL in its statement, first praised the president-elect for his other hire announced Sunday, Reince Priebus, currently the chairman of the Republican National Committee, as chief of staff.
“At the same time, the ADL strongly opposes the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist in the White House,” the statement, posted on Twitter by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, said. “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed antisemites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’.”
Breitbart employs Jews and covers Israel sympathetically, but also has become the nexus of the “alt-right” movement, which includes in it homophobes, misogynists, white supremacists and antisemites. In one recent instance, a writer mocked a critic of Polish populism because she is Jewish.
Bannon’s ex-wife in 2007, in sworn affidavits, said he was resisting sending their daughters to a private school because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” Bannon denied it.
Before the appointment was made official, Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker who is expected to play a senior role in a Trump administration, dismissed claims that Bannon was an antisemite. Dismissing concerns about Bannon and the “alt-right” as coming from “nut cakes”, Gingrich, who is close to the right wing pro-Israel community, told CBS on Sunday morning that Bannon could not be an antisemite because he had worked on Wall Street and in Hollywood.
Liberal Jewish groups joined in the criticism of the Bannon appointment.
“Those of us who were alarmed by Trump’s campaign when it began over a year ago are starting to see the things we feared come to pass, and this is one of them – the elevation of an avowed bigot to a position of incredible official power,” said Stosh Cotler, the CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a political action committee that had opposed Trump.
The National Jewish Democratic Committee said in a statement that the hire showed that Trump was not serious about Jewish sensibilities, despite his oft-repeated defense that his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish.
“No amount of Jewish family members or potential White House Shabbat dinners will overshadow the fact that Trump has hired a man like Bannon as one of his most senior staffers,” the NJDC said. “We won’t forget.”
Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that is part of the boycott Israel movement, likened Trump to the Israeli government. “From our work on Israel, we are familiar with the deepening violence, hatred and repression that comes from a far right government,” it said. “We cannot sit by and watch that take place here–this is not a time for business as usual.”
Trump’s top 5 contenders for secretary of state
By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
WASHINGTON—Although it will be some time before President-elect Donald Trump names the members of his cabinet, the five individuals most often mentioned as contenders for the administration’s top foreign policy post all have strong pro-Israel records.
AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON — Asked on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” radio program in August whom he might consider for the position, Trump replied that Bolton “is a good man” and that he was “seriously thinking” about him. Politico reported this week that Bolton remains in contention for secretary of state.
Bolton, 67, served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006 in the George W. Bush administration. Bolton strongly criticized the Obama administration last month for changing a White House press release that had referred to Jerusalem as being in Israel. He said Obama’s stance on Jerusalem is “a more radical position than the official position of the United States.”
“Obama’s got three more months to insult Netanyahu and demean the state of Israel—this is just another example of it,” said Bolton, who has also been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration-brokered Iran nuclear deal.
Bolton played a key role in the successful U.S. effort in 1991 to revoke the U.N.’s “Zionism is racism” resolution while assistant secretary for international organization affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is currently a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank and a commentator on Fox News. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, D.C.
NEWT GINGRICH — NBC News and other sources have mentioned Newt Gingrich as a leading possibility for secretary of state. Gingrich, 73, an 11-term Republican congressman from Georgia, served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-1999.
Gingrich long has been known as a strong supporter of Israel and a critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In one 1997 speech from the floor of the House, he said the PA’s execution of Arabs suspected of selling land to Jews “is the kind of action we identify with Nazis…Mr. [Yasser] Arafat, you owe it to the world to stop this kind of killing, to protect people engaged in decent commerce.”
In a 2011 interview on The Jewish Channel, Gingrich chided the PA for “stonewalling the peace process” and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. He also said he admires Netanyahu both because “he’s a guy who really puts Israel’s security first” and because “he’s a very free market guy who helped create the entrepreneurial boom that has made Israel so successful.”
SENATOR BOB CORKER — According to The Hill, another candidate for secretary of state is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker, 64, charged that the Obama administration “got fleeced” on the Iran deal. He was the author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which was intended to give Congress a larger say in the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.
Corker criticized Obama for giving up on “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, and for effectively agreeing “to move from having [Iran’s] nuclear program dismantled to having its nuclear proliferation managed.” He also urged Obama to reach “a clear agreement with Israel over when and how to respond to Israel’s nuclear program,” since “while our capabilities give us more time, Israel has fewer capabilities and sees their window closing far more quickly.”
Corker’s voting record on Arab-Israeli issues has earned him a rating of zero from James Zogby’s Arab American Institute. Zogby, who co-chaired the resolutions committee of this year’s Democratic Party convention, is a harsh critic of Israel and American Jewish organizations.
The Mobile Area Jewish Federation last year presented Sen. Sessions with its first “Yedid L’Yisrael” [friend of Israel] award, a sculpture fashioned from a Hamas rocket that had been fired at Israel. The federation praised his consistently pro-Israel voting record and his advocacy of “the principle that it is in the national interest of the U.S. to ally itself with Israel.” Like Sen. Corker, Sessions has earned a zero rating from the Arab-American Institute.
RUDY GIULIANI — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 72, was an early and vocal backer of Trump’s presidential campaign. He served as mayor of New York from 1993-2001, and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
An outspoken supporter of Israel, Giuliani is remembered in the Jewish community for expelling Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chief Yasser Arafat from a United Nations concert at Lincoln Center in 1995. Giuliani said he took that step because Arafat was responsible for the murders of “dozens of American citizens abroad,” such as Leon Klinghoffer — the elderly, wheelchair-bound New Yorker who was murdered and thrown overboard by the Palestinian hijackers of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985.
Trump: Israelis and Palestinians must negotiate peace themselves
(JTA) — In his first long statement about Israel since winning the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump called the Jewish state a “beacon of hope” and vowed to help it make peace with the Palestinians without imposing solutions.
Trump made the statement to Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino tycoon who donated significant funds to the Republican candidate’s campaign. The newspaper published the interview with Trump on Friday, Nov. 11.
“Israel and America share so many of the same values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the importance of creating opportunities for all citizens to pursue their dreams,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people.”
Trump added that he hoped his administration would play a “significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” saying that any deal would have to be directly negotiated between the two sides. Peace, he added, “must be negotiated between the parties themselves and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less.”
France is currently pushing for an international conference to discuss peace in the Middle East, but Israel says any talks should be bilateral ones between the two sides.
Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, said Wednesday, Nov. 9 that the U.S. election result meant the idea of a Palestinian state was over. He was one of several right-wing politicians in Israel to hail Trump as a turning point from the policies advanced by President Obama.
Trump has been widely perceived as favoring a more impartial American attitude to the conflict than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Trump advisers offer conflicting predictions on U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem
(JTA) — Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump issued conflicting statements on whether he will keep his campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Walid Phares, a senior foreign policy adviser to Trump, said Thursday, Nov. 10 during an interview with the BBC, “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do it, and he said as well he would do that, but he would do it in consensus.” The Palestinians oppose the plan, as do many of their supporters.
But one of Trump’s advisers on Israel and the Middle East, David Friedman, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Nov. 9 that Trump would follow through on his promise. “It was a campaign promise and there is every intention to keep it,” Friedman said. “We are going to see a very different relationship between America and Israel in a positive way.”
In September, the Trump campaign also offered no caveats in a statement that was widely interpreted as a pledge to move the embassy. “Mr. Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3,000 years and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel,” read the statement, which was perceived by supporters and opponents of the move as a commitment to relocate the embassy.
In January, Trump said: “I am for that 100 percent. We are for that 100 percent,” in speaking about the proposed move. Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, but allowed the president a waiver. Each president since then has routinely exercised the waiver, citing the national security interests of the United States.
Asked about the deal with Iran, which outgoing President Barack Obama said would roll back that country’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for some relief in sanctions, Phares said that Trump would not “tear it up.”
“He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore a few issues or change a few issues, and there will be a discussion,” Phares said. “It could be a tense discussion but the agreement as is right now — $750 billion to the Iranian regime without receiving much in return and increasing intervention in four countries — that is not going to be accepted by the Trump administration.”
Trump invites Netanyahu to meet in US at ‘first opportunity’
(JTA) — President-elect Donald Trump invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to meet with him in the United States “at the first opportunity.” A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office described a Wednesday phone conversation between Trump and Netanyahu as “warm and heartfelt.”
During the call, Netanyahu congratulated Trump on his victory and said that both he and his wife, Sara, were looking forward to meeting the president-elect and his wife, Melania. Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu congratulated Trump on his presidential victory, calling him a “true friend of the State of Israel.” Netanyahu said in a statement, “I am confident that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights.”
70 percent of Jewish voters favored Clinton, poll finds
(JTA) — Seventy percent of Jewish voters favored Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, with 25 percent opting for Donald Trump, according to a poll. The national survey, which was commissioned by J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, again showed a community that trends more Democratic than the general population. “American Jews remain a bedrock Democratic constituency, with overwhelming disdain for Donald Trump,” J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami said in a conference call with reporters.
Jim Gerstein, the pollster, said Jews continued to remain unstinting in their support of the party. “They voted for Clinton more than Hispanics did, more than any other religious group, including no religion,” Gerstein said.
Trump’s percentage was less than the 30 percent garnered in 2012 by Mitt Romney in his loss to President Obama, but commensurate with the 24 percent won by President George W. Bush in 2004.
The economy led Jewish voters’ concerns in the poll, with 35 percent of respondents listing it as their first or second priority. Tied for second at 27 percent were health care and terrorism. Israel scored ninth, at nine percent.
Those figures are typical when both candidates in an election are seen as basically supportive of Israel.
The J Street poll’s results also comported with national exit polls carried out by a consortium of major media outlets showing Jews favoring Clinton over Trump 71-24 percent. J Street’s poll was conducted by Gerstein Bocian Agne on Election Day and reached 731 self-identified Jews whom the pollster invited from among three million Americans who belong to a web-based panel. It has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.