President Donald Trump spoke once again of his “personal connection” to Judaism on Thursday, as he held a telephone call with American Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashanah which begins on Sunday night.
“I am the very proud father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of also — I will say that very loudly — Jared, and my several Jewish grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchild that I love,” Trump declared.
Over a period of 20 minutes, the president spoke glowingly about Jewish contributions to the US, his efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the recent deportation to Germany of Nazi collaborator Jakiw Palij, and his determination to combat antisemitism in America.
“Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable persecution, yet you have not only endured, you have thrived and flourished as an example of humankind,” Trump said.
On Israel, Trump emphasized that he had “kept my promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as we have since moved our embassy to Tel Aviv to its rightful home in the holy city.”
Regarding his peace efforts, Trump praised his team’s progress on the issue. “Ambassador Friedman, Jason [Greenblatt], Jared [Kushner], and others are working hard to reach a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Said Trump: “All my life I’ve heard that’s the hardest deal to make, and I’m starting to believe that maybe it is. But I will say that if it can be delivered, we will deliver it.”
Both Kushner and Friedman were present on the call, along with Norm Coleman, the chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a Jewish Democrat now widely viewed as a Trump confidante. “It’s an honor to be asking you a question,” Dershowitz told the president, going on to inquire whether the Jewish community should “be optimistic that you can help bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict that we all pray for all the time?”
“I think the answer to that is a very strong yes,” Trump responded.
While there was no discussion of the current storm over an anonymous oped by a White House official in The New York Times that accused Trump of acting “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” Trump was candid in his explanation of his evolving policy toward Iran.
“I had a secretary of state that didn’t like terminating [the 2015 Iran nuclear deal],” Trump said, referring to his first selection for that post, Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March. “I played that little game for a while, and then ultimately I decided I’m just doing it. And I did it.”
Withdrawing from the Iran deal had “a tremendously positive impact on, I think really, world security — because Iran is no longer the same country,” Trump added. “From the day I did it, they’ve lost their mojo.”