Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President-elect Donald Trump will be a great ally of Israel and will significantly change the tone of the US-Israel relationship, Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Bryant, leading a four-day trade mission from the Magnolia State to Israel, also counseled not getting overly concerned that white supremacists were gaining traction in the US as a result of Trump’s election, saying he was not “at all worried” about this.
“It is ridiculous,” said the two-term Republican governor, when asked whether he was worried that organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan in his state might feel emboldened by the Trump victory.
“The Ku Klux Klan in the South might be 100 people who are deranged, loners, people who can’t find their way in life and, like many people like that, are attracted to some strange organization,” he said.
Bryant, speaking to the Post just prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said there is no longer an organized Ku Klux Klan, and that the media made far too big an issue of Louisiana’s David Duke, a former klansman, supporting Trump.
“One crazy guy says ‘I support Donald Trump,’ and they say, ‘there goes the Ku Klux Klan [for Trump].’ This is one guy, David Duke, an old politician in Louisiana who is so irrelevant that we just laugh about him. He enjoys the notoriety of being a former Klan member, and that’s all he’s got going for him.”
But, he said, if Duke calls a press conference, the media “rush to him to see what he has to say. He can’t even get elected to the House of Representatives. Nobody is going to support this guy.”
Bryant, who said he was “close” to Trump and whose name was among those suggested early on as a possible cabinet minister, said he was a bit surprised that some people he had met in Israel had reservations about Trump because of allegations of antisemitic statements made by his chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Regarding Trump on Israel, Bryant said he will not only be a strong “military ally of Israel,” but also help “restore the Israeli- American relationship” and significantly change the tone.
“He has Jewish grandchildren. A Jewish daughter, and a Jewish son-in law. I can’t remember the last president that had children who were Jewish,” he said.
Bryant said showing support for Israel is important for many voters in the American South not only when looking at candidates for national office, but also those running for state positions. This is his third trip to Israel as head of a trade delegation in as many years.
“The people across the South, particularly those active in the church, come from a Judeo-Christian background, and begin to study about the Holy Land, this wonderful Land of Israel, from the earliest days,” he said. “Our mothers told us about the giant [Goliath] in the valley [of Eila] and King David. So we grew up realizing this is a very special place on earth.”
Asked if he felt it was important for his constituents for him to show support for Israel, Bryant replied, “I think so.” But for those running for national office, he said, it was essential.
Bryant said he led his first trade delegation to Israel in 2014 because of a sense that President Barack Obama was not giving Israel the support it deserved.
“About three years ago we in Mississippi began to realize that the administration [of] President Obama, seemed to be very distant from Israel,” he said. “You did not have the closeness and support that we the US formerly provided Israel; so that was one of the motivations that brought us here. We want you to know that Mississippi is supporting Israel in any way that it can.”
Though Israel is not among the top 25 countries either importing from or exporting goods to Mississippi, there is a an Israeli business presence in the state, particularly in the defense industries located there. In addition, elite IDF units have trained with the Mississippi National Guard.