INTERVIEW: Abe Foxman on What to Expect From a Trump Presidency

The following is an interview with Abe Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), on what to expect from a Donald Trump presidency:

On whether the Jewish community should be concerned about a rise in anti-Semitism: Revolutions usually don’t have good consequences for the Jewish community. But I think in this revolution, the good news is it’s not about us. We were not an issue in the election, although some wanted to make Jews an issue. Israel was not an issue, The Iran deal was out there. But this revolution happened without us. We were not central. Not even Jewish money was a major thing. I think that’s a good thing. The bad thing is that for this revolution to happen it had to break taboos. What worries me is Trumpism – the ugly element in out society. What Trump did was break taboos, all kind of taboos. And when you break that kind of taboos, you give a certain hechsher (license) to the bigots that are there. But now we are talking about Donald Trump the president, a leader, and not a candidate. I am optimistic. And I think what we heard in his victory speech, we will continue to hear because what motivates people like him is that they want to lead, and now he’s got to lead everybody. I believe the next time ugliness surfaces, we are going to see him out there in a different way we saw him before. I believe he will step up to the plate.

“I sent him a private letter a couple of months ago asking him to speak out (against the anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish reporters). He didn’t do it, but he had his surrogates do it. It’s not as good as we wanted, but gam zu letovah. I think now he’s in a different position. I believe he will. I think people like myself will nudge him and remind him. But again, he didn’t get elected by them. He got elected by the American people, which included all kinds of elements.”

On the U.S.-Israel relationship: “I think the relationship with Israel will be fine. For Israel, unpredictability is not good, and in the beginning, he was unpredictable and that was a little scary. But as time went on and he filled out the Israel card with positions etc, I think there’s a greater comfort, except on the issue of a one-state solution. I think that’s something for Israel to decide, not an issue for a candidate for president or even the president. I don’t think most of us wanted Obama to tell Israel what to do. I don’t think we are going to want Donald Trump to tell Israel what to do. We want him to listen, to be an ally, a partner. I think that will happen. What you are seeing now is it was political. A one-state solution in their platform, I am not sure served the best interest of Israel.”

On moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem: “Our failure was not to get the American government to move its embassy 50-60 years ago, and every year that went by, it became more difficult because there was a higher price to pay. My view is, I would do thing gradually. I would open a residence in Jerusalem for the Ambassador. I would have an official office in both places. I would move it gradually because, after 70 years of this horrific double standard, it may be too traumatic to do it immediately. That’s why all the promises from our good friends, in the past, when it came to a reality, it was too much of a risk of what the consequences may be, especially in such a radical Middle East as we live in today where any excuse could wind up in violence. I would move the process gradually rather than as a dramatic act. At this point, what’s important is the continued support of Israel.” 

On Obama taking action at the UN: “Seventy percent of the Jewish community still voted Democratic. So there’s a future that the Obamas and Bidens care about. We do have an impact in the future. I don’t see any success coming out of an Obama action. Maybe we have been overhyping this anxiety because I don’t see it being in the interest the Obama legacy, and for American diplomacy. I don’t see any success except to upset a lot of people – for what?”

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