In a meeting with predominantly Orthodox Jewish reporters Thursday in his Manhattan offices, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump identified two staunch Israel supporters as his policy advisors on the Jewish State. The two men, both real estate lawyers, have a track record of pro-Israel sentiment.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the reporters arrived for a twenty-minute Q&A with the frontrunning candidate. Although not forthcoming on many topics, he was very clear about where he’d get his Israel policy from.
Speaking of his chief lawyer, Jason D. Greenblatt, Trump said he would rely on him for advice on Israel. “I don’t think I can find better,” Trump said. “Jason’s very much a consultant to me on Israel, on everything. He’s a tremendously talented lawyer, one of the great real estate lawyers of the City of New York, and he has tremendous passion for Israel. When he goes on vacation, he goes to Israel.”
Asked about his position on Judea and Samaria, the Biblical heartland of Israel which successive US presidents have targeted as a future Palestinian state, Trump deferred to Greenblatt.
“How do you feel about that, Jason, the settlements?” Trump asked.
Greenblatt responded, “I think the settlements should stay, but I think they have to work something out so that both sides are able to live in peace and safety.”
Trump’s second go-to on Israel, he said, was bankruptcy expert David M. Friedman of the Kasowitz law firm. Friedman is a leading commentator for Israel National News, a religious Zionist news website. He also serves as the President of American Friends of Bet El Institutions.
Friedman told Israel National News‘s Baruch Gordon on Friday, “Mr. Trump’s confidence is very flattering. My views on Israel are well known, and I would advise him in a manner consistent with those views. America’s geo-political interests are best served by a strong and secure Israel with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.”
Trump did not need his Israel advisors, however, to acknowledge the country’s right to self-defense. “When missiles are being shot at a country, whether Israel or any other country, I don’t know what ‘disproportionate force’ is supposed to mean,” Trump said, a reference to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’s comments earlier this month in which he accused Israel of using disproportionate force in Gaza in 2014. Sanders also made waves naming anti-Zionist activist Simone Zimmerman as his Jewish outreach director last week, but suspended her days later for profane comments directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump also expressed his belief that American meddling in the Middle East, while motivated by idealism, may have made matters worse rather than better.
“We had Saddam Hussein, who was not a good man, but you would have been a lot better off if that wasn’t done, because now you’ve destabilized the entire Middle East,” Trump said.
“If our elected officials went to the beach and didn’t do anything, the Middle East would be a lot better right now,” he said. “It’s worse than it’s ever been. You look at the migration, you look at what’s going on in Europe, you look at all of the problems. So we don’t believe in authoritarian, but the fact is that if we would have done nothing with Iraq and Libya and other places, we would be better off.”