Oren: Trump Viewed with ‘Consternation’ in Israel

Israel should respect Donald Trump as a potential U.S. president, but also express its strong opposition to his anti-Muslim comments as if he were not a candidate, Knesset Member Michael Oren (Kulanu) said in an interview published on Sunday.

“It has long been my position, certainly since Donald Trump became a leading candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination, that Israel should respect him as a potential president, but also express its strong opposition to some of the things he has said, particularly about Muslims, as if he were not a presidential candidate,” Oren told i24News host Nurit Zunger on “The Lineup” program.

Oren referred to comments made by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) that both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed dismay at the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from presidential candidates, namely Trump, during an overseas trip in January.

“I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee, and so I do spend time abroad visiting our troops,” Kaine told the VA Talk Radio Network this week, according to excerpts published by BuzzFeed News. “I was in the Middle East in January and back-to-back had evening meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel and President Erdoğan in Turkey. These guys agree on nothing but they both said to this group of senators ‘what’s going on in the presidential race?’ And especially, they were very worried about some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming out of some of the candidates because they are societies that are too sectarian.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister denied Netanyahu was commenting on the presidential race. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is very careful to avoid even the appearance of preference among American presidential candidates,” Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “In his meeting with Senator Kaine and his colleagues, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not express any opinion about the candidates or any of their positions.”

Oren explained that Israel has to live with the contradiction of respecting Trump but denouncing his comments because 20 percent of Israel’s population is Muslim. “They are my fellow citizens, and any insult to my fellow citizens will be an insult to me,” he asserted. “We are going to have to live with that contradiction until the outcome of the elections is clear.”

Michael Oren on how Trump's policy statements… by i24news-en

Addressing Trump’s foreign policy approach, Oren said that the Republican presidential front-runner is viewed “with a lot of consternation” among Israelis. “Israel has been accustomed to and deeply appreciates America’s role as the leader of the free world,” he said. “We look at Syria today, and what you see what a country would look like without American involvement in it. Israel has a paramount strategic interest in a proactive and strong America that is willing to take a leadership role on the world stage.”

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