Interview with Rep. Lee Zeldin

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) discussed his role as the most prominent Jewish Republican in Congress, his work as a lawmaker, and President Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest, in a phone interview with Jewish Insider last week.

Zeldin on playing a senior role in the Republican Party: “I’m the Finance Chairman for the NRCC. I’ve been assisting the House Republicans with its fundraising efforts and I look forward to helping, however I can, to ensure that we have the right people in charge and we’re not handing the Speaker’s Gavel over to Nancy Pelosi.”

On Trump’s “both sides” comments in response to the Charlottesville protests: “There is no moral equivalency between people who associate themselves with these KKK and Nazism and those who are opposed to individuals who associate themselves with the KKK and Nazism. I condemn completely, in the strongest possible terms, anyone who in any way, shape, or form at all associates themselves with the evil bigotry, intolerance, and evil connected to the KKK and Nazism, and the President is in a unique role to play as President of the United States to be able to lead our nation in healing a divide that in many respects he inherited. There are people on the Left and Right, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, and Liberal, who live in between those extremes. They reject the extremes. They want to unite as Americans first and the President has an important role to play, and in many respects leading that effort.”

Responding to Bret Stephens recent NYT’s piece, in which he questioned why Trump’s Jewish supporters are still sticking with him after failing to follow through on key promises, Zeldin emphasized: “There’s a lot of very positive victories that have taken place already that Trump’s political opposition refuses to acknowledge because they have pledged to resist, oppose, and obstruct this president on anything and everything saying you can’t work with the president because if you work with him, you’re legitimizing his presidency. I don’t believe that the Iran deal should be recertified. I also believe that the President is going to move forward with his commitment to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the administration is stating that it’s not a matter of if but when, and hopefully, that is done sooner rather than later.”

“I believe that the President should support the Taylor Force Act being passed and signed into law, better leveraging the money that the United States taxpayers pay to not just the Palestinians — as it relates to the Taylor Force Act — but to the United Nations and to other countries where we should be getting a better, more positive return for the investment. I think Ambassador Haley has done an exceptional job so far at the United Nations, where there have been big victories – like getting the UN Security Council to unanimously pass a resolution against North Korea.”

Zeldin on Trump’s Syria strategy: “[Syria] is one country where the president did not inherit a strategy to win. The president didn’t even inherit a strategy of how to run in place. It was just a situation that was going on in the wrong direction, and unfortunately, now the Russians and Iranians have more of an influence there than they have in the past. Bashar al-Assad needs to be replaced, but he can’t be replaced with another Bashar al-Assad.”

On reports that Israel has expressed grave concerns about Trump’s deal with Russia on Syria: “It would be wise for the president, for the administration — in the development of a serious strategy — to work closely with the Israelis, who understand the situation intimately well. They share a border with Syria and are key allies in this entire effort. So it would make every sense in the world to ensure that they have a seat at the table in the crafting of a future policy.”

On serving as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “It’s important that all around the globe that the United States is pursuing the most effective foreign policy possible. Whether it’s combating ISIS and radical Islamic extremism or strengthening our relationship with our closest allies in the world like Israel, or doing a better job at treating our adversaries as adversaries — like North Korea, Iran, and others — it’s important to weigh in on oversight and legislation and appropriations to ensure that we’re pursuing the best path possible for foreign policy. We should make sure that we are never sending our troops into harm’s way unless they’re sent with a clear strategy to win, and learning lessons of the past to ensure that best path forward with what lies ahead.”

On the Israel Anti-Boycott Act: “I would encourage any of the Democrats who have withdrawn support to seriously reconsider getting back into the ‘yes’ column because it is a huge concern for our students on college campuses who are being exposed to anti-Semitism and hate through the rising tide of the BDS movement. It’s really important to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism and BDS around our country for this legislation to pass.”

On the State Department’s plan to shut down the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism: “That is a position that should be filled, not removed and should be given the resources necessary to exceptionally and completely fulfill its mission of combating anti-Semitism wherever it exists.”

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