Lee Zeldin contrasts Trump’s record on Israel with Obama’s in reelection pitch

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Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks at the U.S. Institute of Peace in May, 2019.

A second Donald Trump administration would “do even more to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said in a pitch to participants at a virtual candidate forum hosted by the Orthodox Union on Wednesday, highlighting the administration’s Mideast policy achievements.

Zeldin praised the Trump administration’s record on Israel, contrasting it with the way the Obama administration handled the U.S.-Israel relationship since he entered Congress in 2015. 

“Finally our country was starting to treat Israel like Israel and Iran like Iran, and I do not want to go back to my experience of my first term,” Zeldin, who is running for reelection in New York’s 1st congressional district,, told the group. “I would love to see us build on his progress.” 

“Israelis know that President Trump has had their back every step of the way,” Zeldin continued “Just think of the possibilities if President Trump has four more years in office. Because, with President Trump, he does not wake up the next day and look to just move on to the next unrelated battle. When he scores a win, he asks himself and asks his advisors, ‘What else can we do?’ That’s why we’ve had so many successes in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship — because the president wakes up the next day saying that he wants to accomplish even more.”

Earlier this week, the OU hosted a conversation with surrogates from former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. 

In a separate Zoom call hosted by the Biden campaign on Wednesday, Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban said Trump’s moves on Israel were largely symbolic. He compared the Jerusalem embassy move to a “bar mitzvah,” noting that only one country, Guatemala, followed the U.S. lead and moved its embassy to Jerusalem. 

Another Central American country, Honduras, is expected to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before the end of the year, according to a social media post from Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández last month. 

Saban was also skeptical that the president’s withdrawal from the Iran deal had bolstered Israel’s security.

“In the test of results — where are we from a security standpoint — we have Iran opening a new front against Israel from Syria and we have Iran with three times more enriched uranium,” Saban explained. “You draw your own conclusion.”

Saban, who has maintained close ties with Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and reportedly helped broker the recent normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, suggested that the president was only a participant of a “photo op” and did not deserve credit for the Abraham Accords. “All the credit should really be going here to Jared Kushner and [Mideast peace envoy] Avi Berkowitz, who worked really hard on it,” Saban said.

After staying on the sidelines during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Saban, a major Democratic donor and bundler, endorsed Biden in September, hosting a virtual fundraiser in support of the Democratic nominee.

Highlighting Biden’s longstanding support for Israel, Saban said, “The facts speak for themselves. Facts, you know, are a very stubborn thing. Look at the track record. Andall Jews in America [who] care about the U.S.-Israel alliance know that they can sleep peacefully as far as Israel’s security goes under a Biden presidency.”

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