In a decidedly undiplomatic offensive, former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s likening of neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, to left-wing anti-fascist activists was “utterly unacceptable.”
“Every time I hear or read what he said yesterday, I am shaken once again. The president of the United States backed and supported the most radical and racist people of our society,” he told Channel 2 news in a Hebrew-language interview.
Shapiro pointed out that Trump’s statements at a combative Tuesday press conference, in which he insisted that “both sides were to blame” for the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville, had been celebrated by neo-Nazis such as David Duke and Richard Spencer. “This was support they have dreamed of for years,” he said.
Trump told reporters Tuesday that those who went to Charlottesville to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee had a legitimate grievance.
POTUS talks about "both sides". David Duke & Richard Spencer thank him for his support. You think this won't embolden them to go further??
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) August 16, 2017
“This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson,” he said. “Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” he continued. “Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.”
Asked whether he believed that Trump is himself a racist, Shapiro replied that he didn’t know “what’s in his heart,” but that the backing might come from the realization that “part of his support comes from this radical element” that he does not want to lose.
He labeled the US president’s defense of such elements “utterly unacceptable.”
“I do not know how we will get through the next three-and-a-half years with a president who expresses such unacceptable ideas,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, Kulanu deputy minister Michael Oren, struck a less confrontational note. He told Israel Radio Wednesday that he didn’t think it was appropriate for Israelis to demand that Trump condemn events that occurred on US soil.
His comments came after opposition MKs Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) harshly criticized Trump’s comments.
“It is more important to condemn anti-Semitism within the radical left in America,” Oren asserted.
Former US presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush issued a tough joint statement Wednesday condemning racial bigotry and anti-Semitism, in a veiled rebuke of Donald Trump.
“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms,” the father-son former presidents said in a statement issued from Kennebunkport, Maine, where they have a family home.
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) August 16, 2017