Netanyahu praises Trump for ‘strong stance’ against anti-Semitism
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Netanyahu praises Trump for ‘strong stance’ against anti-Semitism

Amid uptick in threats, acts of vandalism against US Jewish communities, PM urges world leaders to follow president's lead

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday praised US President Donald Trump for taking a “strong stance” in condemning the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the US, and urged other world leaders to do the same.

In the opening to his first joint address to Congress on Tuesday, Trump described the ongoing bomb threats to Jewish institutions and desecration of Jewish cemeteries as a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”

Netanyahu, in a pre-recorded message to the Jewish People Policy Institute’s annual conference, told participants he “appreciate[s] the fact that in the last few weeks and days, President Trump and Vice President Pence have taken a strong stance in condemning anti-Semitism.”

“This is what we expect too from European leaders. Most of them have done it and this is what we must demand from governments around the world because Jews around the world should not live in fear,” he said. “World leaders need to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism wherever it is found.”

Netanyahu had previously shielded Trump from accusations that the president wasn’t speaking out against anti-Semitism.

A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)
A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)

The White House has condemned anti-Semitism several times in the last few days amid a spate of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Jewish leaders in the US have called for the administration to back up its words with actions.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP)

“Actions speak louder than words. Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities,” the JCC Association said in a statement Monday, after dozens of Jewish institutions were threatened in the latest wave of bomb scares.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported Trump is reportedly considering cutting a number of special envoy positions, including one dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism as part of a forthcoming budget proposal.

Speaking Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned over reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries,” adding that “[n]o one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly.”

At a joint press conference with Netanyahu and Trump last month, the US president responded to a question from an Israeli reporter about what he planned to do about concerns of anti-Semitism by pointing to his election victory.

Netanyahu defended Trump, saying that “there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”

A day later, Trump was roundly criticized when he responded to a Jewish reporter who asked at a news conference about the prior JCC bomb threats and what the government’s response would be to “an uptick in anti-Semitism.”

Although the reporter did not suggest Trump was anti-Semitic, the president answered by denying he is an anti-Semite and called the question “insulting.” He ordered the reporter to sit down and did not answer the question.

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