INTERVIEW: Norm Coleman on Trump Strengthening the U.S.-Israel Relationship

JI INTERVIEW with Norm Coleman, former Minnesota senator, who refused to support his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, for president. “Nobody saw it coming. It certainly shook the world with this victory,” Coleman told us in a phone interview.

On future of U.S.-Israel relationship: “The folks in the Middle East have been counting down the days till Obama is gone. The reality is that the relationship was strange. The personal relationship with the prime minister, negotiating with Iran without telling our allies, a sense of our allies, both in the gulf states as well as Israel, that the president wasn’t there to have their back, that he was more focused on the Iran deal than on their needs, and just the deal itself – all that is coming to end. And it’s certainly not going to be a continuation of the Clinton policy, it’s going to be a different policy, and folks are looking forward to that. I think from a perspective of the region, both Israel and the Gulf states, I think folks will welcome a stronger relationship and a more honest understanding of the threat Iran presents. The days of catering to the Iranian mullahs are over, and it’s good for Israel and the region.”

On Trump’s Israel policy: “I think what you will see with Trump is he’s somebody who says what he thinks in spite of what other people react to that, and therefore, I have no doubt that he will follow through on his promises. You know, through his son-in-law (Jared Kushner), he has some very close connections with the pro-Israel community, incredibly close ties. I think that, in the end, will bode well for those of us who are deeply concerned about the U.S.-Israel relationship and about the security in the region.”

On how Trump will handle relations with AIPAC and the ADL as president: “The fact is that during campaigns people get a lot of criticism, and there’s business that you just have to get beyond that. He fought a major battle against Hillary Clinton, and he was only gracious to her in his victory speech. He understands that politics is a rough business. I also want to say that I don’t think it makes much of a difference what the president’s relationship with an organization is. The organization is there for a purpose, if they agree with the president or not. In the end, AIPAC is there to protect the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that’s something Trump strongly believes in. I don’t think there were any personal issues. I think he will be working hand in glove with AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition. The ADL they have a purpose. Their purpose, if it kind of coincides with the president’s vision, that’s great. And if it doesn’t, so be it. But I wouldn’t spend 30 seconds worrying about the relationship  between the president and the organizations.”

On how the #NeverTrump wing will react to a President Trump: “I would hope that the beauty of American democracy is that when our leader is chosen, that we then try and find ways to work with that leader because it is in America’s interest. I will certainly do all in my power to work with the president and help him be successful because if he’s successful, America is going to be successful. That’s the way I have always operated. I guess that’s how most people in this business operate. In the end, this is not personally now that he’s our commander-in-chief-elect, he’s the president-elect of the U.S., and so I would hope that those who disagree with him on certain policy issues would offer to be of assistance, offer to work with him as he sees fit to work with them. He’s in the driver’s seat, and he’s leading the parade. This is all about the country, and it should not be about personal interest.”

“I was originally for Barack Obama to be successful, and he chose a path that heightened partisan divide. He chose a path to strengthen Iran’s role in the region at the expense of Israel and the Gulf states, and I thought it was a wrong path. He chose for America to lead from behind, and I thought we suffered. He chose to draw red lines to Syria and then didn’t follow through, which had a devastating impact. He chose to withdraw quickly from Iraq, which ceded the playing fields to ISIS and the Iranians. By his actions, in the end, I was not in the same place with Obama, clearly. With Trump, I am looking forward to his leadership, particularly the strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and America’s role in the region.”

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