If the US presidential race comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, Israel should “pull for Congress,” an institution that “has Israel’s back more than any other institution,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday in Jerusalem.
The former presidential candidate headed a six member Congressional delegation on a 24-hour visit to Israel as part of a regional tour that will take them to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The group met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, and will meet Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Wednesday.
“One thing I can say is that the Congress has historically had Israel’s back, and that presidents come and go,” Graham said when asked by The Jerusalem Post
who he would favor in a Trump-Clinton race were he an Israeli.
“I’ve been pretty open that I don’t think Donald Trump is a reliable Republican conservative. I think his foreign policy is ill conceived and would be dangerous for the entire world,” he said during a meeting with three journalists.
As for Clinton, Graham said: “I’m not excited about a third term of Barack Obama, and I think in many ways that is what it would represent.”
Graham, who was one of 17 Republicans who began the race for the nomination last year but dropped out after failing to gain traction, was withering in his criticism of Trump, with whom he clashed early on in the campaign.
When asked what a Trump presidency would mean for Israel, Graham said: “If you can tell me what Trump is going to do, then you should write a book. One thing I can tell you about Donald Trump is that his foreign policy, to me, has been gibberish. To me, it is worse than Obama.”
Graham slammed Trump for talking about withdrawing from NATO, readjusting America’s alliances and wanting to be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
“He doesn’t understand what the stakes are,” Graham said of Trump’s neutrality comment. “This is not a land deal, this is not a real-estate deal, this is the survival of the one and only Jewish state.”
Saying Trump also does not see Saudi Arabia as an ally, Graham said: “They are an imperfect ally, but the last thing you want to do is to jeopardize the alliances we do have.”
He charged that Trump is an isolationist who wants to “withdraw from the world.”
As for Clinton, Graham said she has been part of an “antagonistic Obama administration,” and has been in the camp that has “put pressure disproportionately on Israel regarding the settlements.”
At the same time, he said Clinton has been “helpful” at times in that respect, and “I think you would see her more willing to reject the UN Security Council taking over the peace process – at least that is what she said at AIPAC.”
Graham said he did not see any chance of Obama failing to veto a French resolution in the UN Security Council on the peace process during the last months of his presidency, or even initiating a resolution himself locking in parameters of an agreement.
If Obama would bring his own parameters to the Security Council, “Congress’s reaction would be violent,” he said.
Graham, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, said he is responsible for allocating foreign aid and that he has told the UN that “if they try to take up the peace process, no matter what state sponsors it, or what government sponsors it, then their funding will be in jeopardy.” The US, he stated, pays more than 20% of the UN’s bill.
Graham said the thrust of his delegation’s conversation with Netanyahu was on the negotiations currently underway over the Memorandum of Understanding that will set the level of military funding to Israel over the next 10 years.
Jerusalem is looking for an increase to the $30 billion deal that will expire in 2018, and Graham said there is “strong bipartisan support to increase” that figure.
“The threats have grown in the last five years, and the whole region has deteriorated,” he said. “So we are going to try to advocate the best we can for higher assistance to the IDF, but we have budget constraints. We told the prime minister that we would try to be as generous as we could given our budget restraints at home, and that all of us recognize the threats.”
The other members of the delegation included senators David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), as well as congressmen Tom Rice (R-South Carolina), David Jolly (R-Florida) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois).
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