Interview with NJ House candidate Tom Malinowski

ROAD TO THE MIDTERMS — Interview with Tom Malinowski, a Democratic challenger in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, running against Republican Congressman Leonard Lance:

Malinowski served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in President Barack Obama’s 2nd term (2014-2017). He also served as a foreign policy speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In an interview with Jewish Insider, Malinowski said he was motivated to seek public office after the election of President Donald Trump.

“I am myself an immigrant from Poland. My family was not Jewish, but experienced life under the Nazi occupation,” Malinowski said in his introduction. “My grandmother and great-grandmother sheltered Jewish friends and neighbors during the war, and I grew up with those stories. That’s where my commitment to defending human rights comes from. That’s where my belief in the importance of protecting Israel comes from.”

While the incumbent Republican has generally had an easy time getting re-elected for the seat he’s held since 2009, this district is one of 25 Republican-held House districts that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election, and is now ranked as a ‘toss-up” by Cook Political Report.

In the interview, Malinowski conceded that while he’d made “some progress” to defend Israel in international bodies, particularly at the United Nations, during his time at the State Department, it simply is “not yet enough.” Commenting on the Obama Administration’s abstention of UNSC 2334 in December 2016, Malinowski said one should look at Obama’s “quite forceful” record of supporting Israel at the UN. “I think every administration has at one point or another disappointed Israel by a vote that it took in the UN Security Council, and the Obama administration clearly did in that final vote, but I think if you look at the overall record of the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush 41, and Reagan Administrations, the commitment to stand by Israel at the UN and in our broader foreign policy has been solid for many years, and it has been a consensus between the two parties. I feel very strongly that it must remain so.”

On the U.S. withdrawal of the UN’s Human Rights Council: “I think it was a mistake. I have spoken out publicly about the anti-Israel bias there. It’s a real problem, but in the years when the United States was a member, the number of anti-Israel resolutions and special sessions declined significantly. I think the decision to leave the Human Rights Council was cheered by our worst adversaries in the world, by the Russians, by the Chinese, by the Syrians. One important reason for the United States to stay in the Council was to defend Israel. I would never claim that we fully succeeded in ending the anti-Israel bias in the UN, but we did diminish it, and our absence leaves Israel more exposed.”

Malinowski stated that support for Israel cannot be turned into a partisan issue for short-term political gain. “The argument that it is the Republican Party that is aligning with Israel in the United States can only fuel the movement on the Left to question and challenge the U.S.-Israeli partnership,” he explained. “The more partisan this issue becomes, the more polarized Americans will become on support for Israel.”

Malinowski on the Jerusalem Embassy move: “I was fine with the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. When I worked for President Clinton, we used to travel to meet the Israeli government in Jerusalem, because that is the capital and we recognized it in practice. I have no problem with recognizing it formally. I did have a very big problem with inviting, to give the open benediction at the ceremony, a pastor who believes that Jews are going to hell. I think that experience should give all of us some pause as to what’s really going on here.”

On the Iran deal: “I think the deal was not perfect because it did not address some of the most problematic aspects of Iranian behavior, but the deal did set Iran’s nuclear program back by many years, and we did have an offer from the Europeans earlier this year to work with the United States to get much tougher on Iran. The Trump administration inexplicably rejected that deal, and the result is that instead of the United States working with Europe to counter Iran, Europe is now working with Iran to counter the United States. I think that’s bad for our security. I think it’s particularly bad for Israel, and I don’t see any evidence that the administration or its supporters in Congress have any strategy to reverse the damage that they have done. The United States is too isolated to effectively counter Iran or protect Israel alone. I think the role of the Congress should be to challenge the administration on what its plan actually is.”

On the U.S.-Russia deal in Syria: “I do not trust Russia to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria. I think this is an existential threat to Israel. I think Trump is seeking a deal because he wants to pull out of Syria and wash his hands of the responsibilities that come with American leadership in the region. The best alternative that Israel sees, under the circumstances, is a tripartite deal. If the Americans are pulling out, at least maybe we can get help. I absolutely do not trust that the Russians either intend to or are capable of preventing Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria that will threaten Israel.”

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