Trump more consistent on Israel than Obama, Zeldin says

The congressman calls for "further specificity" from both Trump and Clinton on Israel policy.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference (photo credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference
(photo credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP)
WASHINGTON – GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has been more consistent in expressing support for Israel than President Barack Obama has since taking office, Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, asserted in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
Zeldin, who endorsed Trump in May, said he is confident in Trump’s long-term commitment to the security of the Jewish state – a factor he considered before choosing to publicly support the nominee.
“There’s been more clarity from [Trump] on that as it relates to many of those countries in the region compared to the lack of clarity we’ve had during the current president’s term in office,” the lawmaker said. “Right now, the president’s foreign policy in ways has looked like we’re treating Israel like Iran, and Iran like Israel.”
Zeldin has been highly critical of the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last year, and of subsequent revelation of a transfer of $400 million in non-US currency to Iran over a Hague tribunal settlement timed with Tehran’s release of four American political prisoners.
As news of the timing of those transfers unfolded, Zeldin questioned where Obama’s loyalties lie: “When deals like this are cut,” he said at the time, “one has to truly wonder whether the president has no idea what he is doing, or if he knows exactly what he is doing and is playing for some other team.”
Zeldin has also been highly critical of Obama the man, stating in an interview on CNN in June that one “can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist.”
More than 50 Republican former national security officials last week declared Trump a threat to the country, and expressed concern with his apparent willingness to question basic US treaty obligations.
Speaking with the Post, several of them wondered why Israel would be treated as an exception by Trump, who has throughout his campaign revisited a wide range of decades-old American foreign policy assumptions.
Before Zeldin took office in 2015, the last man to serve as the only Jewish Republican member of Congress was Eric Cantor, former House majority leader. Cantor, who also supports the GOP nominee, told the Post last week that he wants more consistency from Trump on his commitments to US allies – including, if not especially, to Israel.
“He has been very inconsistent in many of the things that he has said,” Cantor said, questioning statements from the candidate that he plans to be “neutral” in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I want to see that clarity as far as Israel is concerned – an America that has its back and is leading. I want to see him say that.”
But Zeldin said he has no reason to believe that Trump would reconsider US obligations to Israel, with which the US has extensive ties but no treaty alliance.
“I believe that Mr. Trump views Israel as one of America’s greatest allies, and is committed to strengthening that relationship, and I’m not aware of any specific plan whatsoever to contradict that,” he said. “As far as predictability goes as it relates to that region of the world around Israel, there have been a lot of statements made by Mr. Trump specifying how he views different countries and heads of state in those countries.”
At the same time, Zeldin also said that Trump has room to expand on his stated commitment to Israel’s security.
“There’s an opportunity for both of the presidential candidates to offer further specificity on their vision to what their first 100 days and first term will look like, in terms of strengthening that bond,” he added.
He expects the next US president to staunchly oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, and to return to a public affairs doctrine of preventing political “daylight” from developing between the two nations.
Zeldin faces a challenge to keep his seat in New York’s first congressional district, which covers eastern Long Island, from Anna Throne- Holst, a Democrat who has endorsed the nuclear agreement with Iran and supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.