In stark contrast to the 40,000 marching with joyful exuberance and pride in the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, June 2, there was a smattering of the oddest collection of protesters, who stood on one small stretch Fifth Avenue in front of the fountain between 58-59 streets.
There were religious Jews who claim that a state of Israel should not exist until the Messiah has come; a few Palestinians accusing Israel of terrorism, clearly ignoring the thousands of bombs lobbed from Gaza; and a couple of what are presumed American Jews who charge that the West Bank settlements are immoral and an impediment to peace.
Things got testy at points between the marchers and
the handful of pro-Palestinians, with loud shouting matches and dueling flags, the
protesters wielding cellphones, hoping to provoke some viral video, across a
10-foot “no man’s land” between metal barriers guarded by police.
When US Senator Charles Schumer came by, he at first
passed stoically as a few hecklers taunted him (a Trump supporter yelled at him
to “Go Home” – the Senator from New York is from Brooklyn) but finally turned
his bullhorn to respond to a woman who screamed “Why are you supporting Israel?”
with a comment that boiled down to “Why shouldn’t Jews have a homeland?” At
which point his aides refocused him and he marched on.
The encounters seemed to get more heated as the
afternoon wore on, but as the police successfully moved marchers along using tact
and restraint to defuse the situation, even stopping the protesters from using
an elongated pole on their flag like a lance, and the marchers went into a celebratory
song and dance.
But as I stood between the two screaming entities,
reflecting on the thousands of marchers parading jubilantly, protected by a
police force against the smattering of opponents, I thought how different it
would be living in a society that oppressed Jews (or any minority), where that
minority had to live in fear, practice in secret, where the police, the courts
and the government were agents of suppression and repression, and instead of
thanking the police officer on 57th Street as they passed, as I saw
just about every group do, they had to fear the police, fear the state. The
images of police beating protesters at Pettus Bridge in 1965 Selma; Kristallnacht
in 1938 Germany came to mind.
How different things could be.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism
is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also
illegal,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told a press gaggle as he began the march. “And
we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word on
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish
people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity
right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join
us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish
today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New
York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being
done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the hate crime penalties all
across the state. We are working on more understanding, more
communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law because it has
reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent increase in the state
of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi groups. And by the way,
I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups for what they are. They
are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this is not part of the
democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they attack and every
politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi groups and call
them for what they are.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo had as his special guest Devorah
Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in
honor of her son Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic
attack. This week, an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn, I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Just a few days later, on June 6, after another incident of anti-Semitism in which the words “Kill All Jews,” “Israel” and “Mario Cuomo” were written on a mailbox in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Cuomo said, “Hate speech and threatening language has no place in our state, and the mailbox was immediately replaced with a new one after the graffiti was reported.
“Enough is enough.
We are reaching our breaking point and these despicable acts of violence must
stop. We will not back down in this fight against intolerance and bigotry, and
we will continue to stand up to those individuals who spew hateful language and
attempt to spread fear across our state.
“As New Yorkers and
as a nation, we must denounce anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms. I am
directing the New York State Police Hate Crimes unit to assist the NYPD in the
investigation into this incident and to provide all resources necessary to hold
accountable those responsible.
“In the face of
these ongoing incidents that are ripping at the fabric of our State, we will do
everything in our power to ensure the continued safety and equal treatment of
all New Yorkers.”
To really get a sense of who Donald Trump is as president, listen to his responses to a wide-ranging press conference, held on the day he chaired a Security Council meeting at the United Nations and the day after he delivered his address to the General Assembly, rejecting multilateralism in favor of America First sovereignty.
In his press conference, he addressed everything from the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s handling of sexual assault charges, to North Korea, Iran, trade agreements. He accused China of meddling in the 2018 election (by imposing retaliatory tariffs targeting farmers and Red States). He continued to boast about historic gains in the economy while attacking Democrats, Obama, and sniping at Hillary Clinton. (“If others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on. They were going to put regulations on. They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse. And they were going to raise your taxes. That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.”)
He attacked Justin Trudeau of Canada while praising Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and anyone else who registered adoration.
He dismissed any suggestion that members in the General Assembly laughed at his boast of accomplishing more in his time in office than any US president in history.
“So the fake news said, ‘People laughed at President Trump.’ They didn’t laugh at me. People had a good time with me. We were doing it together. We had a good time. They respect what I’ve done. The United States is respected again. The United States was not respected. Everybody was taking advantage of us. From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.”
And he managed to get a hit at “fake news” and the “failing” New York Times.
Here, then, is a minimally edited transcript of the press conference. — Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
Lotte New York Palace New York, New York
September 26, 2018
4:57 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much everybody. We’ve had a great three days at the United Nations in New York. And this is quite a gathering. Wow. It’s a lot of people. A lot of media. (Laughter.)
We’ve covered a great deal of territory. Just left, as you know, Prime Minister Abe of Japan. We’re starting trade talks with Japan. They were not willing, for years, to talk trade, and now they’re willing to talk trade. And I’m sure we’ll make a very good deal.
Just concluded, as you know — two days ago, signed a deal with South Korea — a trade deal. A tremendous deal with South Korea. It means a lot of business for our farmers. We’re opening up for farmers. We’re opening up for a lot of different groups.
We’re going to be able to sell much more than double the number of automobiles that we were allowed under a deal that was totally defective that was there before. And so we’re very happy with that. That deal is actually concluded.
We’re very well along the way with Mexico. The relationship is very good. And with Canada, we’ll see what happens. They’re charging us 300-percent tariffs on dairy products. We can’t have that. We can’t have that.
With China, as you know, we put out an announcement today. They would like to see me lose an election because they’ve never been challenged like this. But I want to open up China to our farmers and to our industrialists and our companies. And China is not open, but we’re open to them. They charge us 25, 35, 55 percent for things, and we charge them nothing in terms of coming into the country.
Cars, they’re at 25 percent. And we’re at 2 percent and 2.5 percent, and don’t even collect it. But we collect it now.
So we’re doing very well in our situation with China on trade. I have a great relationship with the President of China, President Xi. But it’s got to be a two-way street. It — for 25 years and longer, it was not. And trillions and trillions of dollars was taken out of the United States for the benefit of China. We just can’t have that. We have to make it fair.
So we’re at $250 billion now, at 25 percent interest. And a lot of money is coming into our coffers. And it’s had no impact on our — absolutely, by the way, no impact on our economy, which I said it wouldn’t.
In fact, steel is like the hottest industry there is. If you look at what happened with steel, we’re charging a 25 percent tariff for the dumpers. They dump massive amounts of steel. They want to put the steel companies out of business. And after they’re out of business, they’ll come in and charge five times more than you ever thought possible. And we need steel and we need aluminum. And those industries are doing well.
But steel is incredible. U.S. Steel is opening up a minimum of eight plants. Nucor is opening up plants. And these are big plants — $750 million and a billion dollar plants, in some cases.
So what’s happening with the steel industry is very exciting to me. It’s being rebuilt overnight. If you look at the miners in coal, if you look at energy, LNG — Japan just gave us some numbers that are incredible. They’re doubling the amount that they are going to be buying for Japan. They’re taking the LNG and they’re doubling it up.
I said, “You have to do me a favor. We don’t want these big deficits. You’re going to have to buy more.” They’re buying massive amounts of equipment and military equipment, and other countries are doing the same thing. Because we have trade imbalances with almost everybody. It’s a rare exception that we don’t.
So we are doing great as a country. Unfortunately, they just raised interest rates a little bit because we are doing so well. I’m not happy about that, because I know it’s going to be a question. I am not happy about that. I’d rather pay down debt or do other things, create more jobs. So I’m worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates. We can do other things with the money. And — but they raised them. And they’re raising them because we’re doing so well. You know, we’re doing much better than I had projected in terms of — when I was campaigning, I said we were going to do this and we’re doing much better than anybody ever thought possible.
And, I will say, if others got in, it would have been just the opposite because they were going to put restrictions on. They were going to put regulations on. They were going to choke the economy as it was already choking, but it would have been worse. And they were going to raise your taxes. That’s what they want to do now if they ever got control, which I don’t think they’ll have control for a long time.
Q In 1991, when Joe Biden passed along to the Bush 41 White House the allegations that Anita Hill had raised against Clarence Thomas, the Bush White House asked the FBI to look into it as part of Judge Thomas’s background investigation — not a criminal investigation, but the background investigation. When these allegations were raised, why didn’t this White House do the same thing? And with all of the allegations that are coming out now about Judge Kavanaugh, was there an opportunity missed here to have investigators look into this and get some sort of clarity one way or the other?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times, many times over the years. They know him very well. But here, there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint. They didn’t know the location. They didn’t know the time. They didn’t know the year. They didn’t know anything. And it’s like, where do you go?
Also, it’s not for the FBI. If you look at what Joe Biden said, he said, “They don’t do this.” And he said it very clearly.
So I think when you really look at it all, it’s not going to change any of the Democrats’ minds. They’re obstructionists. They’re actually con artists because they know how quality this man is and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation and they want to destroy it even more.
And I think people are going to see that in the midterms. What they’ve done to this family, what they’ve done to these children — these beautiful children of his — and what they’ve done to his wife. And they know it’s a big, fat con job.
And they go into a room and, I guarantee you, they laugh like hell at what they’ve pulled off on you and on the public. They laugh like hell. So, it wouldn’t have mattered if the FBI came back with the cleanest score. And you understand that very well, John. If they would have come back with the most perfect — “We found everything, and he’s perfectly innocent of everything.” It wouldn’t have made a difference. You wouldn’t have gotten one vote.
Now we will get votes from the Democrats if we win. You’ll have three, four, or five Democrats giving us votes, because they’re in states that I won by 30 and 40 points and they’re going to give us votes.
Q Mr. President, there are now three women accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Are you saying that all three of those women are liars? Is there anything that can be said at this point tomorrow that could cause you to withdraw the nomination? Anything at all that —
THE PRESIDENT: I won’t get into that game. I’ll only tell you this: This is one of the highest quality people that I’ve ever met, and everybody that knows him says the same thing. And these are all false — to me, these are false accusations in certain cases. And certain cases, even the media agrees with that.
I can only say that, what they’ve done to this man is incredible. You know, it’s very interesting — I pick a lot of judges. I have 145 judges I will be picking by the end of a fairly short period of time because President Obama wasn’t big on picking judges. When I got there, I said, “How is this possible?” I have 145 — including court of appeals — judges. And they just didn’t do it. You know why? They got tired. They got complacent. Something happened. I have 145 judges.
Everybody wants to be a federal judge. Not just a Supreme Court judge, I’m talking about court of appeals; I’m talking about district court. I don’t think they’re going to want to so much. I’ll be calling people, and we’ll have people calling people that do this. And people are going to be scared because we could say it about you, “Thirty-five years ago, you met some…” — and you might know — you might not know what’s going on.
What is going on? Why did they wait so long? Why did Senator Feinstein wait until the hearings were over and make this case? Why didn’t she bring it right at the beginning? When you ask about, as an example, the FBI — why didn’t they bring this right at the beginning, during the hearing? You would have had all the time in the world for the FBI. It would have been fine.
Now the FBI, as you know, did investigate this time, as they have five or six other times. And they did a very thorough investigation. But this is a big con job. And I would love to be in the room with the Democrats, close the door — you guys are all away, outside, waiting. And Schumer and his buddies are all in there laughing how they fooled you all. Let’s just stop them. A big fat con.
Q But, Mr. President, if I could follow up. You have daughters. Can you understand why a victim of sexual assault would not report it at the time? Don’t you understand —
THE PRESIDENT: People are going to have to make a decision. Thirty-six years, there’s no charge. All of a sudden, the hearings are over and the rumors start coming out.
And then you have this other con artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today. I only say that you have to look at the facts. The senators are very capable people. They’re very good people. I know many of them. They’re friends of mine. These are very talented, very good people. And they’re going to vote. They’re going to believe what they believe.I can — when I look at what’s happened to the reputation of a great gentleman — a great intellect; a brilliant man; somebody that has a chance to be one of our great Supreme Court Justices in history, intellectually — I think it’s a shame.
Q Mr. President, yesterday at the speech at the U.N., you spoke about how Venezuela’s problem was because of Cuba and the Castros — how they went in there and they brought socialism and communism to Venezuela, and now to Nicaragua as well. Mr. President, are you going to be more proactive now against Cuba as well?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve been very proactive against Cuba. I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba. As you know, President Obama gave them a pass and I didn’t like it. Neither do Cuban people based in Miami and based in our country that came from Cuba and suffered in Cuba.
I don’t like what he did. I’ve ended much of it — most of it. I don’t like what’s happening in Cuba, and I certainly don’t like what’s happening in Venezuela.
Q You said also that you had a call-to-action to ask the leaders around the world to also end socialism. Would you like to be recognized as —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn’t say that socialism has been working really well around the world, okay. You can take a look at Venezuela as your number one — your number one — I guess, the one that is most obvious. But you take a look around the world, socialism is not exactly riding high.
Standing By His Men
Q Why is it, Mr. President, that you always seem to side with the accused and not the accuser? You have three women here who are all making allegations, who are all asking that their stories be heard. And, you know, if you look at the case of Roy Moore, if you look at the case of one of your staffers, you seem to, time and again, side with the accused and not the accuser. Is that because of the many allegations that you’ve had made against you over the years?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I wasn’t happy with Roy Moore. Let’s get that straight. But Roy Moore was a Republican candidate —
Q But you stood by him.
THE PRESIDENT: — and I would have rather had a Republican candidate win. I was very happy with Luther Strange, who was a terrific man from Alabama, but Luther Strange had a lot of things going against him.
As far as women, whether it’s a man or a woman, these are — you know, it can happen the other way. Allegations can go the other way also. You understand that. And whether it was a man or a woman, 30 years ago, 36 years ago — in fact, they don’t even know how many years ago because nobody knows what the time is. That’s a long time.
And I could pick, as an example — hopefully I won’t have to do it as a replacement because hopefully this is going to go very well on Thursday. It’s going to go very well on Monday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or whenever they vote. But I could pick a woman and she could have charges made from many years ago also.
Q First of all, do you think these women — all three of them are liars? Yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow. I have to read. I just heard about one a little while ago. I can tell you her lawyer is a low life, okay? So I can’t tell you whether or not they’re liars until I hear them.
I don’t know what happened today because I’ve been very busy with Japan, with South Korea, with China, and about seven other countries, as you know — and I chaired the Security Council.
So I don’t know about today’s person that came forward. I do know about the lawyer. And you don’t get much worse — bad reputation, too. Take a look at his past.
So, as far as the other women are concerned, I’m going to see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to be watching — you know, believe it or not. I’m going to see what’s said. It’s possible that they will be convincing.
Now, with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been, for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington. He’s been on — I guess you’d call it the second highest court. And every single person knows him; a lot of people know him well. And those people don’t believe what’s going on. I can always be convinced. I have to hear it.
Q It sounds like what you’re saying is, there is a situation, there is a scenario under which you would withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Is that correct? And have you talked about that with him?
THE PRESIDENT: If I thought he was — if I thought he was guilty of something like this, yeah sure.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to watch. I want to see. I hope I can watch. I’m meeting with a lot of countries tomorrow, but I will certainly, in some form, be able to watch. And I’ll also rely on some very fair and talented Republican senators who — look, if we brought George Washington here and we said, “We have George Washington,” the Democrats would vote against him, just so you understand.
And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know. (Laughter.) He may have had some, I think, accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past? George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists. I mean 100 percent. One hundred percent.
So it really doesn’t matter from their standpoint. That’s why when John asked about the FBI — if the FBI did the most thorough investigation in the history of the FBI, and they found him to be 100-percent perfect, he would lose every single vote.
Now, if the Republicans win tomorrow, I think you’re going to get some votes from the Democrats. You know why? Because — we all know why — because it’s called politics. Then you’ll probably get some votes.
Q Has there ever been an instance when you’ve given the benefit of the doubt to a woman?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve known them. Hallie, I’ve know them for a long time and — a lot of these people. A lot of people. And some I’ve been disappointed with. I have been disappointed with some. Others, like — you know, there are charges that are pretty weak.
But I’ve known people for a long time. I never saw them do anything wrong. I never saw them do anything wrong. And there are some that probably — I agree. I can tell you there are some that I — I’ve been watching for a long time. And in a couple of cases, they weren’t Republicans. In a lot of cases, they were not; they were exactly the opposite.
But I’ve been watching them for a long time. And I knew for a long time these were not good people. And they were never brought up.
I Was Accused…Fake News
Q How have your personal experiences being accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct —
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve been accused. I’ve been accused. False accusations.
Q — right, how have those —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. I’ve been accused. And I was accused by — I believe, it was — four women. You can check with Sean Hannity. You can check with Fox, because they covered it very strongly — who got paid.
Q And how has (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. Excuse me. I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me. We caught them, and the mainstream media refused to put it on television. They refused to even write about it.
There were four women, and maybe more — I think the number is four or five. But one had a mortgage paid off her house, $52,000. Another one had other things happen. And the one that reported it, I believe, was offered $750,000 to say bad things about me — and she is the one that reported it. This woman is incredible. She reported it, instead of taking the money.
So I’ve had numerous accusations about me.
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, they made false statements about me, knowing they were false. I never met them. I never met these people. And, what did they do? What did they do?
They took money in order to say bad things. I’ve had stories written in the New York Times — front page — about four women. The whole top center front page of the New York Times. I think it was four big pictures.
I said, “Wow. That’s a big thing. What’s that?” These were women that were quoted saying bad things about me. Not the worst things about me, but bad things. And I said, “Gee, that’s too bad.” I knew them a long time ago — 15 years ago, 20 years ago. I said, “That’s too bad. I’m surprised at them.”
And then all of a sudden I see them on television — nothing to do with me. The next day or a day later, they were incensed. They said, “Donald Trump is a nice guy. We never said this. The New York Times did false reporting. They’re fake news.” And you know what? The New York Times would not report that their story was fake.
These women said great things. Not only did they not say the bad stuff, they said great things about me. Front page. And those women — they’re incredible women — they went on television — and they didn’t want to, and I didn’t ask them. And they said, “The New York Times made it up. They gave false quotes.” And they went on a lot of shows. They were really incensed and they couldn’t believe it.
That’s why people know that a lot of the news is fake. And a lot of the people sitting here are fake. But 20 percent of them are wonderful. Okay?
Q If I could just actually ask my question, Mr. Trump. I — you didn’t let me ask my question.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve been asking a question for 10 minutes, all right?
Q No, you interrupted my question.
THE PRESIDENT: Please sit down. Please.
Q I’m asking you —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q — how did those impact your opinions on the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it does impact my opinion. You know why? Because I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me. I’m a very famous person, unfortunately. I’ve been a famous person for a long time. But I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me — really false charges.
I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame. They want money. They want whatever. So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television, where they say, “Oh, Judge Kavanaugh…” this or that.
It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges; I had a woman sitting in an airplane and I attacked her while people were coming onto the plane. And I have a number-one bestseller out? I mean it was total phony story. There are many of them.
So when you say, does it affect me in terms of my thinking with respect to Judge Kavanaugh? Absolutely. Because I’ve had it many times.
And if the news would have reported these four people — I couldn’t believe it. When I heard that they caught these four people, I said, “Wow. That’s a big story.” And it was — for Fox. Okay.
Accuses China of Meddling in 2018 Elections
Q Earlier today and just now, you made a significant allegation against the Chinese government. You suggested that the Chinese had meddled in or are meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s what I hear.
Q What evidence do you have of that, sir? Is there a national intelligence estimate, for example, that you’re prepared to put forward?
THE PRESIDENT: We have evidence. We have evidence. It’ll come out. Yeah, I can’t tell you now, but it came — it didn’t come out of nowhere, that I can tell you.
Now, if you — they’ve actually admitted that they’re going after farmers. I mean, I think most of you can cover that.
I like that you’re shaking your head, “yes.” I’m going to ask you the next question because of that. Okay? It’s probably going to be the killer of all questions. (Laughter.) But let me just explain —
Q But why make the charges now —
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. Let me —
Q — if you’re not prepared to come forward with the evidence, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: China, now, put on $250 billion, and they’re paying 25 percent on that. They’re paying billions and billions. This has never happened to China. And I like China. And I like President Xi a lot. I think he’s a friend of mine. He may not be a friend of mine anymore, but he — I think he probably respects —
From what I hear — if you look at Mr. Pillsbury, the leading authority on China — he was on a good show — I won’t mention the name of the show — recently. And he was saying that China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain. He said, “Donald. Donald Trump. They don’t know what to do.” It never happened.
Well, one thing they are trying to do is they are trying to convince people to go against Donald Trump. Because a normal, regular, political person that has no concept of what the hell he’s doing would let China continue to take $500 billion a year out of our country and rebuild their country.
I mean, they were building 29 massive bridges like the George Washington Bridge. They’re building things that we don’t build anymore. But we’re starting to build them again.
And our economy now is hotter than it’s ever been. I don’t know you if you saw the confidence levels this morning that just came out. Fantastic.
And in all fairness to the Fed raising rates, they’re raising rates because we’ve never done like we’re doing now. And one of the things that is nice about the rates — the people that were hurt the worst by these zero interest rates and, you know —
When President Obama had an economy that was — it was the worst comeback since the Great Depression and all that — you’ve all heard that. But remember, he was playing with zero-interest money. He was playing with funny money. That’s easy. I’m playing with fairly expensive money.
So when he does that, the people that benefit are people that actually — in their whole life, they would save 10, 15, 20 percent of their salary and put it in the bank. Those people got killed because they put their money in the bank. They were going to live off the interest, and there was no interest.
Now, those people are starting to get interest. And those are the people, frankly, that deserve to — you know, they did a great job. The people that did it right, the people that did the best job got hurt the most.
So in one sense I like it, but basically I’m a low-interest-rate person. I hate to tell you.
Fire Rod Rosenstein?
Q Are you planning to fire Rod Rosenstein?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m talking to him. We’ve had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he doesn’t believe it. He said he has a lot of respect for me, and he was very nice and we’ll see. And he’s a member of the Trump administration, in that sense; it’s the Justice Department.
I would certainly prefer not doing that. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction — I mean, unless you call obstruction the fact that I fight back. I do fight back. I really fight back. I mean, if you call that obstruction, that’s fine.
But there’s no obstruction. There’s no collusion. I’m going to meet with him tomorrow. I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay to the meeting, because I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick. So I don’t want it competing and hurting the decision — one way or the other decision. Again, I want to hear what she has to say.
But I want to do — so I may delay that. I’m going to see. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to conflict with that. But my preference would be to keep him, and to let him finish up.
You know, I call it a “witch hunt.” And it is a witch hunt. If you look at the FBI statements with Strzok and his lover Lisa Page. If you look at all of the things that have gone on in the FBI. If you look at McCabe taking $700,000 from a Hillary Clinton-PAC essentially run by Terry McAuliffe, who’s her best friend in the world, and he gives them hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he’s in charge of her campaign, and his wife is getting all of this money to run — she lost — to run. I mean, what’s going on?
If you look at the horrible statements, like “Way to go, Page. Great story you put into a newspaper.” Essentially, now we’ll go and investigate that group. It’s terrible. We have caught people doing things that are terrible.
I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein. Much prefer. Many people say I have the right to absolutely fire him. He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. And nobody in this room believes it.
By the way, I deal with the people in this room. I was with Mike Pompeo before, and we were dealing, at a very high level, with Japan. And I was saying things that nobody in the room even understood. And I said them a long time ago, and I was right. He said, “That’s not the 25th Amendment that I’m looking at.” I think I can say that from Mike.
Q So you don’t think anyone in your administration has ever discussed using the 25th Amendment against you?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. Well, yeah — enemies, sure. You use anything you can.
Q Was it in your administration or your Cabinet?
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, you use anything they can. They’re not in love with me. They’re not going to beat me in the election; they know that. They’re not going to beat me. The people that I’m looking at are total lightweights. I dream of running against those people.
Q But within your administration?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe they’ll come up with somebody that’s not — they’re not going to beat me. I’m against what they want to do. I’m in favor of law enforcement. I’m in favor of safety and security, and low taxes. I want low taxes.
I want borders. We’re getting another $1.6 billion in borders. I want borders. We’ve spent $3.2 [billion] and we’re getting another $1.6 [billion]. And then eventually, we’re getting the whole thing and we’ll complete the wall.
They don’t want that. They don’t want that. They don’t want the things that I have.
Now, I must say, I know many of the Democrats. They’ll say things and then wink at me. And again, it’s the same old story. They’ll say things; they don’t mean it. Its politics. The reason they don’t want me is because they want to run the show. They want it. It’s power. It’s whatever you want to call it. But what they’ve done here is a disgrace. A total disgrace.
And what they do — I know, it’s sort of interesting — in one case, they say, “He’s a fascist. He’s taking over the government. He’s the most powerful President ever. He’s a horrible human being. He wants to take over the entire government, and he’s going to do it. We can’t stop him.” That didn’t work.
The next week, he said, “Uh, he’s incompetent.” I said, “Well, wait a minute.” In one case, I’m taking over the world. And in the other case, “He’s incompetent.” They tried that for a week. That didn’t work.
Look, these are very dishonest people. These are con artists. And the press knows it, but the press doesn’t write it.
No Timeline for North Korea
Q You’re getting letters from Chairman Kim. Why do you need a second summit with the North Korean leader so soon? And what do you —
THE PRESIDENT: Because he’d like it.
Q What would it be for?
THE PRESIDENT: So I’ve received two letters from Chairman Kim. At some point, I’ll, you know, give these letters — they’re incredible letters. They’re letters that are magnificent in the sense of his feeling for wanting to get this done. I really believe he wants to get it done. I may be wrong.
I heard somebody on a certain network last night — I won’t mention which one — say, “Why has President Trump given so much to North Korea?” I said, “Wait a minute.” I asked Sarah Huckabee, “Please call this person.” I gave nothing — other than I met. What did I give them?
I didn’t do what Obama did: Give them $1.8 billion in cash to get back four hostages. I got back our hostages; I never paid them anything. I haven’t paid them 10 cents.
But he wants to make a deal and I’d like to make a deal. We actually have a very good relationship together — a lot different than the last time I was at the United Nations. That was a little bit rough.
Don’t forget, that time, they said, “Oh, Trump is saying these horrible things. He’s going to get us into a war.” You were going to have a war. If I wasn’t elected, you’d be in war. And President Obama essentially said the same thing. He was ready to go to war.
You would have had a war, and you would have lost millions, not thousands. You would have lost millions of people. Seoul has 30 million people — 40 miles and 30 miles from this very dangerous border. If I wasn’t elected, you would have had a war.
President Obama thought you had to go to war. You know how close he was to pressing the trigger for war? Millions of people. With me, nobody is talking about that. Nobody is talking about that.
We have a very good relationship. He likes me. I like him. We get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters — just one — to Prime Minister Abe, he said, “This is actually a groundbreaking letter. This is an incredible — this is a historic letter.” And it is a historic letter. It’s a beautiful — it’s a beautiful piece of art. And I think we’re going to make a deal.
Will we make a deal, Steve? I don’t really know. But I think we’re going to.
In the meantime — and I’ve said it a thousand — I don’t want to bore you: no rockets, no missiles, no nuclear tests — you know, for over a year, where you haven’t seen.
Before I got here, everybody in this room thought you were going to war. And then what happened — it was funny — they said, “He was terrible. He was so rough with Chairman Kim — Kim Jong Un. He was so rough. It’s terrible. He’s going to cause…”
Well, I had a great meeting with President Putin. And on that one, they said, “He was too soft with President Putin.” I had a great meeting with the President. It lasted for two hours. We discussed everything: Ukraine, Syria, Israel and Israel’s protection. We had a great meeting. They wanted me to end up in a boxing match.
And you know what? If I was killer-tough with President Putin, they would have said, “He was too tough.” You can’t win with these people, but you just keep going. In the meantime, we’re doing well.
Q How long do you think it should take North Korea to denuclearize?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. I don’t want to get into —
Q We’ve seen estimates of one year, two year —
THE PRESIDENT: Steve, I don’t want to get into the time game. You know why? I told Mike Pompeo, I said, “Mike, don’t get into the time game.” We stopped them. They’re taking down plants. They’re taking down a lot of different testing areas. They’re going to take down some more. You’ll be hearing about that very soon. I don’t want to go ahead of myself, but you’ll be hearing about it soon. They have no interest right now in testing nuclear.
You know, we had a case just about when I was coming into office — you all remember it — where there was a massive — they thought it was an earthquake. A mountain moved over an inch and a half. We’re talking about mountains. You know, North Korea is very mountainous. Beautiful land. Beautiful. This mountain actually shifted. It shifted. And somebody thought it was an earthquake. And then they found out, no, this was nuclear testing. Shifted a mountain. Now I’m talking about serious stuff. Serious size.
When I came in, and certainly before I came in — and even at the beginning of mine because when I was having rhetorical contests — you know, contests, really, I guess you could call it — with Chairman Kim, which we both smile at now and we laugh at. But everybody thought that was a horrible thing.
We’ve had — many Presidents were unable to do anything, anything at all with North Korea. We now have a good relationship. We have a good relationship. And most importantly, all of the things that you’ve been hearing about –the horror stories — in my opinion, they’re gone.
Now, could they start up again? Yes. I’m a deal guy. Could they start? Yeah. Could be that we don’t work it out.
I think — I have it right here — I think that what we’ve done behind the scenes, which nobody really knows about — and I don’t blame you for not knowing about, you know, personal letters, private letters. But saying they want to get it done. We know much more than the media for a change. Much more. But if you saw what’s going on behind the scenes, I think you’d very impressed.
We were a country going to war. I really believe that President Obama would admit that he said it’s by far his biggest problem. When I sat with him, prior to going to office — going into office, he said to me that’s by far the biggest problem. And he said to me that he was very close to going into war.
And millions of people — not — you know, I — they say, “Oh, thousands of people…” No, no, no, not thousands. Millions of people would have been killed. And that could have left — you’re right next to China. You’re right — that could have been a world war very easily.
Right now, we’re in a great position. I don’t want to play the time game. I told Mike Pompeo, “Don’t let them do that to you.” I haven’t given anything.
And all of a sudden — we got back, it was a few weeks ago. I think we were back like two and a half months from the summit, which was a great success. And people are screaming, “What’s taking so long?” I said, “Oh, I get it.” You got to understand the media. I’ve been dealing with the media all my life. Too much. Too much.
They’re screaming and I saw that. And our guys were — and not Mike — but our guys were being, “Oh well, we’re working as fast…” I said, “I got all the time in the world. I don’t have to rush it.” There’s no — you know, secession of sanctions. We got the sanctions on. I didn’t take any sanctions off.
I did see a reporter last night — a guy I like, personally, a lot. And he asked a question to President Moon of South Korea. He said, “Why did the President give so much?” I didn’t give anything. I gave nothing. What have I given, other than some time? Yes, I flew to Singapore. We had a meeting.
Now, giving would be if I took the sanctions off. I didn’t want to do — if you asked General Mattis, for a year and a half, I said, “Why don’t we stop these ridiculous,” in my opinion, “the military games?” I call them the “military games.” If I told you how much those games cost — and, frankly, I told South Korea, “You should be paying for these games.” We pay for them.
They say, “Well, we fly the planes in from a short distance away.” I said, “Where is that?” “Guam.” “Oh, huh. How long a trip is that?” “Seven hours.” “Oh, great.” We’re flying these massive bombers and everything. I’ve wanted to stop this for a long time. I consider that an asset.
But we’ve done — we’re saving, by the way — just for the taxpayer, we’re saving a fortune. And if we need them, we can start them up immediately. If I think we need them, I’ll start them before the generals will start them.
The fact is, this reporter said that. I said, “What have we done? I haven’t given anything.” And we’re really onto the cusp. I think we’re really going to do something that’s going to be very important.
But we’re not playing the time game. If it takes two years, three years, or five months, it doesn’t matter. There’s no nuclear testing and there’s no testing of rockets.
Democrats’ Con Job
Q Are you at all concerned at the message that has been sending — being sent to the women who are watching this when you use language like “con job” in relation to allegations of sexual assault?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I’ve used much worse language in my life than “con job.” That’s like probably the nicest phrase I’ve ever used. I mean, con job — it is. It’s a con job. You know, confidence — it’s a confidence job. But they short — it’s a con job by the Democrats. They know it.
Q What about the message that’s being sent to women who are watching?
THE PRESIDENT: They did the same thing with the Russia investigation. They tried to convince people that I had something to do with Russia. There was no collusion.
Think of it. I’m in Wisconsin. I’m in Michigan. I say, “Gee, we’re not doing well.” I won both those states. “We’re not doing well. Uh, let me call the Russians to help.” Does anybody really believe that? It’s a con job.
And I watch these guys — Little Adam Schiff, and all of the guys. He takes a call from a Russian who turned out to be a faker. You know, he was a comedian or something. “This is so-and-so calling for…” — he took the call. Why is the taking a call from a Russian?
Senator Warner took a call from a Russian. He was a comedian or something, but he said, “We have pictures of President Trump.” “Oh, where can I get them?” If we ever did that, it would be like a big deal.
Yeah, it’s a con job. And it’s not a bad term. It’s not a bad term at all.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll tell you one thing I can say: I’ve had a lot of people talking about this to me, with respect to what’s happening, because it’s a horrible precedent.
I’m going to have to get other judges and other Supreme Court judges, possibly. I could have a lot of the Supreme Court judges, more than two. And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh — spoke to him and his family — and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored. It was as though — I mean, the biggest thing that’s ever happened. And I understand that — U.S. Supreme Court.
I don’t want to be in a position where people say, “No, thanks. No, thanks. I don’t want to.” You know, “I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.” We have a country to run. We want the best talent in the world.
But I’ll tell you this: The people that have complained to me about it the most — about what’s happening — are women. Women are very angry.
You know, I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said, “This couldn’t happen — 52 percent.” Women are so angry. And I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing, but I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster. But give them their day in court. Let her have her day in court. Let somebody else have a day in court.
But the ones that I find — I mean, I have men that don’t like it, but I have women that are incensed at what’s going on. I’ve always said women are smarter than men. I’ve said that a lot and I mean it. But women are incensed at what’s going on.
I Like Kurds A Lot
Q Rudaw Media Network from Kurdistan region, north of Iraq. I’m a Kurd. Sir —
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good. Great people. Are you a Kurd?
They’re great people. They’re great fighters. I like them a lot. Let’s go. I like this question so far.
Q Mr. President, you always say you support your allies. Kurds right now, after the defeat of ISIS, are under a lot of pressure in Syria and in Iraq by many adversaries.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s true.
Q What will you do to elevate their position to support them in order — after they help the United States to defeat ISIS? Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we are helping them a lot and we’ve been very friendly with them. And, as you know, we’ve fought side-by-side. And we have defeated ISIS, essentially, a very short while ago, in the Middle East. And we did it with a lot of help from the Kurds. And they are — they’re great fighters.
You know, some people are great fighters and some people aren’t. The Kurds are great fighters. And they’re great, great people. And we’re going to be working — we’re discussing that situation exactly right now.
Q What will you do to support them, sir, (inaudible) Syria?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m just telling you, we’re going to be discussing that situation. We have already started discussing that situation. But we have tremendous support from the Kurds in defeating ISIS. Okay?
Q And about Syria: Sir, in your speech you did not mention —
THE PRESIDENT: Uh, yes. Go. Uh oh.
Prospects for NAFTA
Q Did you reject a one-on-one meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I did.
THE PRESIDENT: Because his tariffs are too high, and he doesn’t seem to want to move, and I’ve told him, “Forget about it.” And frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada. That’s the motherlode. That’s the big one. We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada.
We don’t like their representative very much. They’ve taken advantage — I love Canada, by the way. I have so many friends. I have everybody, and so many friends. But that has nothing to do with this; I’m representing the United States.
Mexico was totally — I mean, they were great. By the way, the new President has been great. The deal is done. Now, it has to go through Congress and, you know, a lot things have to happen. But we’ve done — Bob Lighthizer, who’s here someplace. Where’s Bob? Bob. Bob Lighthizer has done a great job of negotiating, as they have. But the deal is done. It’s up to Congress.
THE PRESIDENT: But Canada has treated us very badly. They’ve treated our farmers in Wisconsin, and New York state, and a lot of other states very badly.
Dairy products — 300 percent. Three hundred percent. How do you sell a dairy product at 300 percent? The answer is: You don’t. What it is, is a barrier. It’s — basically, they’re saying, “We don’t have any barriers. By the way, it’s 300 percent.” So you don’t send it in, because you can’t compete.
So Canada has a long way to go. I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators. We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time. We had people that didn’t know what they were doing. And that’s why we had — over the last five or six years, if you average it out, we had $800 billion a year in trade losses. It’s ridiculous. It’s not going to happen.
Q What does that mean for NAFTA? Will you be pulling out of NAFTA?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t like NAFTA. I never liked it. It’s been very bad for the United States. It’s been great for Canada. It’s been great for Mexico. Very bad for us.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to use the name “NAFTA.” I refuse to use it. I’ve seen thousands of plants and factories close. I’ve seen millions of jobs lost to auto companies that moved. I mean, Mexico has 25 percent of our auto business now because of NAFTA.
Under our deal, it’s not going to happen anymore. I hate to tell you, it’s not. We’re going to keep companies. And I told the Mexicans, I said, “We have to keep companies.” But they’re getting a lot, also. They’re getting other things. They’re getting a lot of good things. Mexico made a very good deal.
But with Canada, it’s very tough. What we’re doing is if we made a deal with Canada — which is, you know, a good chance still. But I’m not making anything near what they want to do. We’re going to be fair.
Q But you’re — are you going to notify Congress of pulling out of NAFTA?
THE PRESIDENT: What we’re probably going to do is call it the “USMC.” Like the United States Marine Corps, which I love. General Kelly likes it even more. Where’s General Kelly? He likes that. “USMC” — which would be U.S., Mexico, Canada. But it’ll probably or possibly be just “USM.” It’ll be United States and Mexico.
Q Yes or no, are you going to —
THE PRESIDENT: Canada will come along. Now, if Canada doesn’t make a deal with us, we’re going to make a much better deal. We’re going to tax the cars that come in. We will put billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury. And frankly, we’ll be very happy because it’s actually more money than you can make, under any circumstance, with making a deal. Okay?
Kurds, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey
Q What will be the U.S.A. relations with the Kurds —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I thought I just answered that.
Q — post-ISIS. Post-ISIS.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. We’re trying to get along very well. We do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory.
THE PRESIDENT: We have to help them. I want to help them.
Go ahead, what’s next?
Q Then, what —
THE PRESIDENT: They fought with us. They fought with us. They died with us. They died. We lost — tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS. They died for us and with us. And for themselves. They died for themselves. But they’re great people. And we have not forget — we don’t forget — I don’t forget. What happens someday later — but I can tell you that I don’t forget. These are great people.
Q About Iran, Mr. President. About Iran, one question: What is your clear plan to stop Iranian influence in Iraq, in Syria, and especially in Iraqi Kurdistan?
THE PRESIDENT: I think there’s been no greater change — other than maybe China, because China — unfortunately, their markets have dropped — would you say, 30 percent in the last four months, right? I think I watched you recently when you said that. I said, “I think she’s wrong. I think it’s actually 32. But that’s okay.” But a lot.
There’s been no — other than maybe that, but even that. Because China is a very special place. And Iran is a very special place. But I think there’s been no country that’s changed so much as Iran.
In the last six months, since I took off the horrible, horrible Iran nuclear deal, as they called it — one of the dumbest deals ever made. As an example, why didn’t they take care of Yemen in the deal? Why didn’t they take care of Syria in the deal? You know what Kerry said — the reason? “It was too complicated.”
We’re giving $150 billion, we paid $1.8 billion in cash — cash. This whole room would be filled up with hundred-dollar bills. And you’d need probably five rooms like this. But you have $1.8 billion in cash. Why didn’t we take care of Yemen? Why didn’t we take care of Syria and other? And he said, “Because it was too complicated.” Well, you just gave all your cards. You gave them $150 billion. And now Yemen’s a mess, but it’s getting better.
And Syria’s a mess. And I was responsible — and I hope it stays that way — when I put out on social media, a few weeks ago, about Idlib Province. I said, “Don’t do it.” And I’ll tell you, it happened — where I was at a meeting with a lot of supporters, and a woman stood up and she said, “There’s a province in Syria with 3 million people. Right now, the Iranians, the Russians, and the Syrians are surrounding their province. And they’re going to kill my sister. And they’re going to kill millions of people in order to get rid of 25,000 or 35,000 terrorists or enemies of theirs.” But I think we can call them terrorists.
And I said, “That’s not going to happen.” I didn’t hear of Idlib Province. And I came back to New York, and I picked up the failing New York Times — I hate to admit it was the New York Times, but it was the failing New York Times. And I opened it up — not on the front page, but there was a very big story. I said, “Wow, that’s the same story that the woman told me that I found hard to believe.” Because why would — how would anyone do that with 3 million people? And it said that they were being surrounded, and they were going in and starting — literally, the next day, they were going to drop bombs all over the place and perhaps kill millions of people in order to get 35,000 terrorists.
And I put out on social media and elsewhere — I gave Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, everybody these orders: “Don’t let it happen.” I said, “Don’t let it happen.” That doesn’t mean they can’t be selective. They can’t be — you know, go in and they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do with terrorists. I assume they’re terrorists. But don’t kill millions of people.
And it stopped. You saw that. Nobody’s going to give me credit, but that’s okay. That’s okay. Because the people the people know.
I have had more Syrians thank me for that. This was about four weeks ago, I put that out. I said, “They’re surrounding a city of 3 million people. They’re going to start bombing the city. Don’t let it happen.” And I meant it, too. I meant it. And millions of people have been saved.
And I gave, today, great credit to Iran. I don’t know if you heard that. I gave great credit to Iran, to Russia, and to Syria for not doing it.
Now I hope it’s going to be surgical — meaning go in and do — it’s lengthy and everything else. And they possibly have to do it. But I think millions of people would have been killed. And that would have been a shame.
And hopefully — and I have to tell you, Turkey has been a big help. Turkey has been great. Turkey has helped us very much with that whole situation.
Q Touching back on Iran: Of course, this week, you put out a call to action to other countries to rally with America, to put pressure on Iran. Rouhani is still calling for the U.S. to come back into the old deal. But after meeting with world leaders this week, did you make any progress towards a potential new deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Doesn’t matter what world leaders think on Iran. Iran’s going to come back to me and they’re going to make a good deal, I think. Maybe not. Deals — you never know.
But they’re suffering greatly. They’re having riots in every city, far greater than they were during the green period with President Obama. Far greater. When President Obama stuck up for government, not the people. You probably would have had a much different Iran had he not done that. But I’m sticking up for the people. I am with the people of Iran.
But here’s the thing: They have rampant inflation. Their money is worthless. Everything is going wrong. They have riots in the street. You can’t buy bread. You can’t do anything. It’s a disaster. At some point, I think they’re going to want to come back, and they’re going to say, “Hey, can we do something?”
And I’m very simple; I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. That’s all. Is that too much to ask? I don’t want them to have nuclear weapons.
I want them to have a great economy. I want them to sell so much oil so that the oil prices — I’m not happy with OPEC. I told them, “I’m not happy with OPEC.” We take care of all these people, we defend them. They wouldn’t be there for two weeks if it wasn’t for me, and the United States, and a much stronger armed forces than it was. Because our armed forces was depleted. We had old equipment.
Now, we have — hey, you know better than anybody — $700 billion and $716 billion. We have the most incredible new jets and everything. We need it. Not that I want to spend it, although it is jobs. It’s all made in the United States.
But Iran has to come back, and they have to talk. And I’m not doing this from strength or weakness. I’m just saying, at some point, I think they’re going to have to come back.
If you look at what’s going on, companies are leaving left and right. Mercedes Benz just left. They’re all leaving. They don’t want to be in Iran. Because they have a choice: Do they want to be with Iran, or do they want to be with us?
And we have, by — we picked up $10 trillion since my election. We were being caught by China. Now it’s going the other way. People can’t believe it. People have never seen this situation with China. Everything’s always been — for 20 years, “Oh, China is so great. China is so great.” You don’t hear that so much anymore. I love China; I think they’re great. But you don’t hear that so much anymore. You know who’s great now? We’re great now.
Okay, how about just a couple more. Now, I could be doing — I could be doing this all day long. I could be doing this all day long. Should we continue for a little while? It doesn’t matter to me. A couple of more. I don’t care.
New York Times, come on. New York Times. The failing New York Times. Stand up. Go ahead.
Q You’re talking about me, but (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m talking about the Times is failing. You are far from failing. Go ahead.
Q Okay, but you’re not — you were pointing to me, so you meant me. But I —
THE PRESIDENT: The Times are very interesting, though. The Times, I think they’re going to endorse me. (Laughter.) I think that ABC — I think — well, Fox — I like Fox. I really do.
Q Just to be sure —
THE PRESIDENT: But I think ABC, CBS, NBC, the Times, the — they’re all going to endorse me, because if they don’t, they’re going out of business. Can you imagine if you didn’t have me?
Laughter in General Assembly? Fake News
Q Yesterday, you were talking about your administration’s accomplishments at the United Nations, and a lot of the leaders laughed. Why do you think they were laughing?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s fake news.
Q And what was that experience like for you?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. It was fake news. And it was covered that way. Okay. So, I said that, since my election, our economy has become the hottest in the world. Tax reductions, regulations, confidence levels are the highest in 18 years — really, soon to be historic. Unemployment is the lowest in the history of our country. You look at Black unemployment. You look at Asian unemployment. You look at women — 65 years. The unemployment numbers are among the best we’ve ever had ever. The numbers of new companies pouring into our country, which nobody thought was possible.
And I said this. And I was in front of a large group of highly professional people, most of whom are from either other countries or the United Nations — people that aren’t big into clapping, applauding, smiling. And I heard a little rustle, as I said our country is now stronger than ever before. It’s true. I mean, it is true. And I heard a little rustle. And I said, “It’s true.” And I heard smiles. And I said, “Oh, I didn’t know there there’d be that kind…” They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing with me. We had fun. That was not laughing at me.
So the fake news said, “People laughed at President Trump.” They didn’t laugh at me. People had a good time with me. We were doing it together. We had a good time. They respect what I’ve done.
The United States is respected again. The United States was not respected. Everybody was taking advantage of us. From jobs, and taking our companies, and not paying the price — to so many other things, even military protection.
I told a number of countries over the last few days, I said, “Listen, you’re a very rich country. We protect you. Without our protection, you would have real problems. You would have real problems.”
THE PRESIDENT: I said, “You should reimburse us for this protection. Why are we protecting you?” And do you want to know what they said after about two minutes of talking? They agreed with me. And you can ask this group of very talented people — they agreed with me.
But they said — one of them said, “But Mr. President, nobody ever asked us for that. They never asked us for that.” Nobody has ever said, “You should pay.” These are really wealthy countries.
I mean, I’ll be honest, I just asked Japan. I said, “We’re defending you. You’re a very wealthy country. You’re sending us millions of cars. You’re making a fortune. We have a tremendous trade deficit with you. And we’re defending you, and we’re subsidizing your military with a massive amount of money.”
I said it to South Korea. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. They’re a very wealthy — these are great countries. These are very wealthy countries. I said, “Why aren’t you reimbursing us for our costs?”
And you know what? They look at me, and they can’t even answer it, because there’s no answer. If they’re a poor country and they needed protection, and people were going to die, I’m all for protecting them; I don’t want 10 cents. But when wealthy countries that have massive trade surpluses with us — massive — and then on top of that, we’re paying for their military? Or we’re paying for a lot of their military? That doesn’t work.
Kinship with Kavanaugh?
Q Mr. President, you said you feel a kinship — you said you feel a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh and you — Mr. President, really quickly, you said you felt a kinship with Brett Kavanaugh. You said that you also — your false allegations that you feel like were made against you make you feel like you don’t want to believe these women. What message do you think that –
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn’t say that. Why do you say that?
Q So, please explain —
THE PRESIDENT: Fake news.
Q Please explain —
THE PRESIDENT: Why — did I say that?
Q Well, can you please explain then what you’re talking about in your own false allegations?
THE PRESIDENT: I said, exactly, “I look forward to watching her.” I do want to hear what she says. And maybe she’ll say — I could be convinced of anything. Maybe, if she’ll say something — but in the meantime, I have to tell you, he’s one of the highest quality human beings.
He’s a tremendous man. He’s a tremendous genius. He’s a great intellect. He was, I believe, number one at Yale. Is that a correct statement? Number one in his class at Yale.
Q So you don’t feel a kinship with him?
THE PRESIDENT: He was a great student in law. He was — you know, I’ve heard his name. I didn’t know him. Didn’t know him. Until this whole thing, I didn’t know him. But I heard his name for 10 years.
And you know how I heard his name? Everybody was saying he should be on the Supreme Court. I said, “Who is he?” “His name is Brett Kavanaugh. And he should be — he’s the most brilliant person. He’s the most brilliant lawyer.” They were talking about him on the Supreme Court 10 years ago. With all of that, I want to hear what she has to say. Okay?
Q But you said that you don’t feel — but you said that you feel like there have been numerous false allegations against you, and that because of that–
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I’ve had many false —
Q — you feel that you understand what he might be going through.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve had many false statements against me. And if the press would have reported it, I would have been very happy. I think John Roberts would tell you that — you covered the story where the women were paid to say bad things about me. Sean Hannity covered it.
I will tell you, when I saw that on Sean Hannity, I actually called him. Believe it or not, I don’t speak to him very much, but I respect him. I called him. I said, “This is the biggest story. This is a big, big story.” He agreed with me. The next day, I picked up the papers. There wasn’t one word about it. The next day, I watched ABC news. John, I watched NBC. I watched CBS. I didn’t watch CNN, but, next time, I’m going to. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I watched everything. There wasn’t one story other than Fox. And it’s a big story. It’s a shame. Okay. Enough. Thank you, though.
Israel & Two-State Solution: US Embassy in Jerusalem a Bargain
Q Today, you met with Bibi Netanyahu, from Israel. And you brought up, actually, that you support a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli crisis there.
THE PRESIDENT: I do.
Q Can you give us any more preview of what this great deal, the peace deal (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’d love to be able to make a deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. You know, my whole life, I was told that’s the toughest deal. And I disagree. I think healthcare is probably tougher, okay? You want to know the truth. But it is tough. But we’re going to take care of that, too. And that’s going to get taken care of. We’ve already taken care of a lot of it.
But the whole — my life, I’ve always heard the deal between, as you know, Israel and the Palestinians, that’s like the toughest deal. Every possible thing is tough about that. I think we’re going to make a deal. I think we’re going to make a deal.
So, at one of our many meetings today, I was with Bibi Netanyahu, a man who I have a lot of respect for. A man who has been extremely nice to me — very happy that I did the whole thing with Jerusalem and the embassy, which, by the way, we’re going to open in four months for less than $500,000. And the budget was over $1 billion, right?
Q Yes. That’s correct.
THE PRESIDENT: So we saved, let’s say, a billion dollars. That’s not so bad. And it’s open. And it’s beautiful, by the way. Jerusalem stone, one of my favorite stones.
I will tell you, the question — somebody said today, “Well, this is the first news conference in a long time.” I said, “What do you mean? I did like, five today.” Every time I sit, I take a lot of questions from people that are screaming like maniacs in the back of the room — meaning, reporters.
And one of the reporters — I won’t say that it was John Roberts that said that, I refuse. But one of the — it was, but that’s okay. Don’t feel guilty, John. But of the reporters that was screaming asked about the one-state, two-state. And I said, “I think the two-state will happen. I think it’s, in one way, more difficult because it’s a real estate deal — because you need metes and bounds, and you need lots of carve-outs and lots of everything. It’s actually a little tougher deal. But in another way, it works better because you have people governing themselves.
So, they asked be about that. I said, “Well, I think the two-state will happen. I think we’re going to go down the two-state road.” And I’m glad I got it out. And Jared, who is so involved — he loves Israel. He loves Israel. But he’s also going to be very fair with the Palestinians. He understands it takes two people to be happy — two groups of people to be happy. Everybody has got to be happy. And that’s why it’s so tough, because there’s been so much hatred and anger for so many years. That’s what, probably, the number-one ingredient of toughness is. But they asked me — I said I think it’s going to be a two-state.
And you know what I did today? By saying that, I put it out there. And if you ask most of the people in Israel, they agree with that. But nobody wanted to say it. It’s a big thing to put it out. It’s a very big thing to put it out.
Now, the bottom line: If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me. If they want two states, that’s okay with me. I’m happy if they’re happy. I’m a facilitator. I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.
When we had — in Saudi Arabia, we had one of the great conferences in history. Many of you were there; probably all of you were there. It was one of the most beautiful two days. That, and China — two of the most incredible events I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it.
And we had, I believe, 58 Muslim countries — the leaders. The kings, the emirs, the absolute leaders from every — there was nobody in second place. They were the leaders of the whole thing.
And unbeknownst to anybody else, people would come up to me, individually — it wasn’t a setup. They’d come up to me and say, “Sir, you can’t have peace in the Middle East without peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” I said, “Why? What difference? Why does that matter so much?” They said, “It just is impossible to make peace in the Middle East unless you have between the Israelis…”
So, I heard that from one — the King of Saudi Arabia, who is a great guy — King Salman. And then, somebody else came up. And he wasn’t told, “Oh, go up and say it.” I know where they’re coming from. And I must have had 12 leaders say it. And they just said it.
And I started to realize that peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for the Middle East, is a very important thing. And we’re trying very hard to get it. I think, probably, two-state is more likely. But you know what? If they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it if they’re both happy. If they’re both happy, I’m okay with either. I think the two-state is more likely.
Okay, how about one — go ahead.
Q New York Times? New York Times?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay.
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I would have gotten bad story in the New York Times. But I will anyways, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
Q We’re — we’re kind of, uh —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, we’ll do you after that.
Q We’re kind of, uh —
THE PRESIDENT: And then we’ll call it quits.
Q We’re kind of thriving, not failing these days.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re doing very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Say, “Thank you, Mr. Trump.” (Laughter.)
Q (Laughs). I think I’ll stop short of that. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I wonder how you do — you know, all my life, I’ve had very few stories — but I’ve had some on the front page of the New York Times. Now, I think I think I average about three or four a day, right?
THE PRESIDENT: And, of the three or four, they’re all negative. No matter what I do, they’re negative. But you know what? That’s okay. I still love the paper.
Go ahead. (Laughter.)
China Trade War
Q I wanted to come back to China, because I think what you announced today was really important.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
Q You talk about this friendship you have with Xi Jinping, and yet, essentially, what you did today is accused his government —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
Q — of interfering in our internal affairs —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
Q — subverting our Democratic process, and doing it to hurt you, the Republican Party —
THE PRESIDENT: Doing it to help them.
Q — and your backers.
THE PRESIDENT: You know what? Yeah. Doing it to help them.
Q So how can a guy who does that be your friend?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that we are able to — and maybe he’s not anymore. I’ll be honest with you, I think we had a very good friendship. I think we had a very good relationship; we understand each other. They are doing studies on Donald Trump. They’re trying to figure it all out because this has never happened to them before. It’s never happened.
Think of it, you’ve never seen — you’ve covered very well — you’ve never seen this happen. They’re having big problems. I don’t want them to have problems, but they got to make a fair deal. Just like Canada has got to make a fair deal.
I believe that he and I have a very good chemistry together. And I can tell you that about many leaders. I can also tell you a few where I don’t feel I’ll ever have a chemistry with them. I don’t want to have a chemistry with them. And for those people, I’ll have Pompeo, Nikki, Bolton, Jared. I can go — our general; I’ll have our general. Or if they can’t do it, I’ll have Sarah Huckabee do it. Right?
But for the most part, I have very good — very good with Prime Minister Abe. Very good with President Moon.
By the way, what President Moon said last night — I know you won’t report it — but Bret Baier interviewed him last night and he asked him about me. I can’t say — because you would say I’m too braggadocios — but what he said about me last night was an unbelievable thing. “Couldn’t have happened without President Trump, and it never would happen without President Trump. And nobody else could do it.” You know, I mean, you’ll take a look.
But I will tell you, China is very special. Very special. They’re incredible people. It’s an incredible country. What they’ve done is unbelievable.
Q How would —
THE PRESIDENT: And it all started with the WTO. It was a defective deal. And it all started — without the WTO, China is not China as we know it today.
And then it started also by — our people that are standing right in this position, that are in the Oval Office — another way of saying it — allowed them to get away with murder. Allowed a lot of countries to get away with murder.
I think we still probably have a very good relationship. But you know what? In honor of you, I will, tomorrow, make a call to him. Say, “Hey, how you doing?” Okay?
Q Can I — can I just ask —
THE PRESIDENT: “You don’t mind paying billions of dollars a month in tariffs.”
Q I just had two small follow-ups. One is, how would you compare the level of interference you see today from the Chinese to what Russia did in 2016?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s different. If you look at the Des Moines Register, I mean, they have ads that are made to look like editorials. Saying about, “Oh, you got to stop Trump. You got to stop him. You got to vote against him.” My farmers are so incredible. These are patriots.
You know, on a network that doesn’t like me very much — which is most of them — but a network that didn’t — doesn’t really treat me very good, they interviewed farmers. And they got hurt because, you know, all of a sudden China stops buying.
By the way, they’ve started buying again. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. And soybeans are going up, and things are going up. And we’ve had very little hurt from what I’ve done. In fact, the markets have gone up. And the farmers are going to do great.
But, ultimately — but they had farmers, and these guys are amazing; I love them. And they voted for me and they love me. And they said, “We don’t care if we get hurt. He’s doing the right thing.” And, you know, a lot of people — it’s a complex game. A lot of people don’t know exactly what it is. They don’t know how to define “tariff.” They don’t know it is really different than a tax, although it’s getting close.
But they know that for the first time in many, many years, they have a President that’s fighting for them; that’s not letting their jobs be taken to other countries; that’s not allowing the kind of abuse that we — I mean, when you look at what happened, as an example, with NAFTA. And for years — because it was never changed — NAFTA was defective deal the day it was signed.
You know why? Because they had a VAT tax of 17 percent and nobody from this country knew that. And by the time they found out, which was about a week later, nobody went and changed it. So you went many years and they never changed it. There was a VAT tax that Mexico got. So we were 17 or 16 points behind, before we even started. NAFTA was a horrible thing.
So the farmers and — by the way, the steel workers — you know, I stopped the dumping. The dumping was horrible. And now if they want to dump, that’s okay, but they’ve got to pay the United States of America 25 percent on everything they dump. That’s okay. But as I told you before, steel is doing phenomenally well.
But the farmers say, “This man is fighting for us. No President has ever fought for us before.” And you really have to study what’s happened over the 15 years with the farm. The farmers have been decimated over a 15-year period. They’ve been decimated. The farmers are going to come out great. These are great people. They’re great, great patriots.
What Message Kavanaugh Hearings Sending Young Men?
Q You were asked earlier in the news conference by my friend from Sky News about the message that you are sending to the women of the country. What about the message that you may be sending to young men? You’re a father. What does this moment that we’re in — the cultural moment —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a very big cultural moment.
Q Right. So what messages do you for young men of America?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a very big — it’s also — you’re right. I think it’s a great question.
This is a very big moment for our country because you have a man who is very outstanding, but he’s got very strong charges against him — probably charges that nobody is going to be able be — to prove.
So I could have you chosen for a position. I could have you, or you, or you — anybody. And somebody could say things. And it’s happened to me many times, where false statements are made. And honestly, nobody knows who to believe.
I could pick another Supreme Court judge — Justice. I could pick another one. Another one. Another one. This could go on forever. Somebody could come and say, “Thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago, ten years ago, five years ago, he did a horrible thing to me. He did this. He did that. He did that.”
And honestly, it’s a very dangerous period in our country. And it’s being perpetrated by some very evil people. Some of them are Democrats, I must say. Because some of them know that this is just a game that they’re playing. It’s a con game. It’s at the highest level. We’re talking about the United States Supreme Court.
This can go on forever. I can pick five other people. At a certain point, the people are going to say, “No, thank you.” This is the most coveted job, probably, in the world.
And you know what? I would honestly say — because I interviewed great people for this job. He’s great, but I interviewed other great people for this job. I could conceivably imagine going to one of them and saying, “It’s too bad what happened to this wonderful man, but I’m going to choose you, number two. I want you to go.” And I could conceivably be turned down by somebody that desperately wanted this job two months ago.
THE PRESIDENT: So this is — this is — and this is beyond Supreme Court.
THE PRESIDENT: There’s nothing beyond Supreme Court; this is beyond Supreme Court. This has everything to do with our country.
When you are guilty until proven innocent, it’s just not supposed to be that way. Always I heard, “You’re innocent until proven guilty.” I’ve heard this for so long, and it’s such a beautiful phrase. In this case, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.
With that being said, I look forward to what she has to say. I also look very forward to what Judge Kavanaugh has to say. I think it’s going to be a very, very important day in the history of our country.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, chairing the Security Council meeting on Thursday, September 20 focused on the Middle East, listened as one member after another attacked Israel for “disproportionate” response to Palestinian protests, the looming humanitarian crisis which demands international support and calls for Israel to stop the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the West Bank, where 181 Palestinians live, as a provocation which would further hamper the prospects for a two-state solution.
“The urgency of the situation that we face on the ground is really desperate – Gaza can explode any minute,” UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov, briefing the Security Council, stressed.
“We have a humanitarian responsibility to react but we must understand that it cannot be solved only on the basis of humanitarian action…It must be solved with a political perspective to resolving Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we have a responsibility to support the parties.”
Mladenov listed Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestinian territory; uncertainties about the future of the peace process and the two-state solution; Hamas’ continuing hold on Gaza and its militant activity, as exacerbating the situation on the ground.
“No steps have been taken during the reporting period to cease settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” he said, asserting that settlement activities are “a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.”
He pointed to violence, acts of provocation and inflammatory rhetoric – both by Hamas and Israel, and that on at least three occasions the situation “escalated dramatically” and calm was restored only after Egypt and the UN intervened to de-escalate tensions.
On the humanitarian side, of most concern is the power crisis in Gaza and, with the UN running out of funds for emergency fuel, critical health, water and sanitation facilities are at “immediate risk” of shutting down. Levels of critical medicines are also running dangerously low.
The crisis is being further exacerbated by the serious cash shortfall – due to the withdrawal of US funding – confronting UNRWA, the Organization’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, he said, calling for urgent funding to allow it to continue its vital services.
Mladenov reminded the Security Council that 25 years have passed since the Oslo Accords were signed in the US capital, Washington D.C.
“It was a historic moment that captured the world’s attention and filled Palestinians, Israelis and the region with hope that a genuine peace could be realized. Sadly, that courageous vision of a lasting peace now lies in tatters,” he said.
“We must restore that hope – the alternative is perpetual cycles of violence. We must overcome the current impasse and refocus our efforts on ultimately returning to meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and bring a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
After his report, one by one, the ambassadors expressed criticism of Israel.
But instead of responding, she sidestepped the issue entirely, focusing instead on Iran as the more dangerous actor destabilizing the Middle East.
“I’ve listened to my colleagues statements this afternoon with great interest,” Haley said. “I have always been open about my belief that this Middle East debate has been excessively and unfairly focused on Israel. Today, I will go one step further. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is serious and worthy of this Council’s attention. But if there is one country that is the source of conflict and instability in the Middle East – one country that merits a quarterly debate in the Security Council – that country is not Israel. It’s Iran.”
She proceeded to lay out the case against Iran, which will no doubt be a key focus for the United States in the upcoming General Assembly and Security Council meetings, when the US will likely marshal support for its decision to pull away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by which Iran agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from sanctions. The US has demanded reimposition of sanctions.
“For almost 40 years, the Iranian regime has existed outside the community of law-abiding nations. It is difficult to name a conflict in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints on it.
“The Iranian regime has backed dictators who gas their own people. It stokes conflict. It funds foreign fighters and terrorists. It transfers missiles to militants. It acts against the interests and policies of this Security Council, time and time again. Across the Middle East, Iran has trampled on the sovereignty of its neighbors. In Lebanon. In Syria. In Yemen. And the Iranian regime has shown a total disregard of the sovereignty of a country that is at a critical stage in its political development: Iraq.
“Iran’s leaders pretend their interference in the sovereignty of other nations is done in the name of religious affiliation. They like to claim that they have been “invited” into the affairs of other countries. In fact, the motives of the mullahs are much less elevated. They are interested in power. In the case of Iraq, their goal is to exploit uncertainty in order to create an Iranian controlled corridor for weapons and fighters from Tehran to the Mediterranean.
“In recent months, Iran’s aggression has escalated. Iranian proxies in Iraq operate openly, with funding, training, and weapons supplied by Tehran. The Iranian regime has reportedly begun over the last few months to transfer ballistic missiles to these proxies in Iraq. It is reportedly developing the capability for its proxy militias to produce their own missiles inside of Iraq.
“In a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty, the Iranian regime recently fired a barrage of missiles from Iran into Iraq. Iran attacked the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, killing eleven people. This was not an act of Iranian proxies but of the Tehran regime itself. It was Iran’s first direct military strike into Iraqi territory in over a decade. This Iranian interference in the sovereignty of Iraq should be of great interest to the Security Council for many reasons, not least of which is because it occurs in clear defiance of Security Council resolutions.
“Iranian General and head of the IRGC Quds Force Soleimani is leading an effort to influence the composition of a new Iraqi government. I remind my colleagues that Soleimani was banned from traveling outside of Iran by the Security Council in 2007. That ban was reaffirmed in 2015 with the passage of Security Council Resolution 2231. Despite this unambiguous travel ban, Soleimani has practically taken up residence in Iraq since the May elections. This fact was noted by the Secretary-General in the most recent 2231 Implementation Report. And let’s be clear about what Soleimani is up to in Iraq. He is not there to help create a government in Baghdad that is responsive to the Iraqi people. He is there to build an Iraqi government that is under the control of the Iranian regime.
“Iran treats Iraq as if it was not an independent nation. Iran sees Iraq as merely a transit point for Iranian weapons and a training ground for Iranian proxies. Iran seeks to keep Iraq economically weak and dependent on its exports – even though Iraq has plenty of its own resources. Why? Because Iran wants to use a weak Iraq to illicitly fund its terrorist activities.
“There is one more recent Iranian escalation that bears special consequence to Americans. Two weeks ago, two Iranian proxy groups launched rocket attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Basra. Using proxy forces in Iraq does not give the Iranian regime plausible deniability when attacks like this occur. The Trump Administration does not, and will not, buy that. Iran could have stopped its proxies’ attacks. It chose not to, so the White House responded by putting Tehran firmly on notice. We hold the Iranian regime fully accountable for its proxies’ attacks on U.S. facilities and personnel in Iraq. And we will not hesitate to vigorously defend American lives.
“The sovereignty of Member States is an issue that comes up a lot in the Security Council – for good reason. Every nation has the sovereign right to govern itself, protect its people, and defend its borders. No less than any nation, Iraq has that right. And yet, at a critical time in its history – as Iraqis build their government – Iran is acting in shameless disregard of Iraqi sovereignty. It is threatening populations to promote its own political leaders. It is undermining a key feature of sovereignty – a state monopoly on the use of force – by promoting its own militias.
“The United States is committed to working with Iraq to help it create an inclusive and independent government. Iraq is working to recover from years of conflict against ISIS and still to overcome the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.
“Not only is Iranian interference preventing forward progress for the Iraqi people, it is pulling them backward to the conflict and division they are striving to put behind them. This is the very same conflict and division that Iran promotes in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and across the Middle East.
“All members of the Security Council who respect the principle of national sovereignty should be concerned. And all who respect the right to self-determination for the Iraqi people should come to their defense.”
After listening to very erudite analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics by Mark Rosenblum, a former Queens College Professor of Mideast Studies and co-founder of Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at a meeting of Long Island grassroots activists, Reachout America, I came to my own enlightenment. It came when Rosenblum, who is also a founding member of Americans for Peace Now, showed us a map of Israel with the Palestinian communities shown as brown clusters on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Then he made this point: 80% of the 420,000 Jewish settlers in the so-called Occupied territory, the vast majority secular and not messianic Jews, live along a sliver of that territory that hugs the internationally recognized border of Israel.
Now, for the longest time, the contention has been that even though the Arab states invaded Israel in 1967 en masse intending to drive the Israelis (Hebrews) into the sea and despite the fact Israel won the war for its very existence, that the Palestinians are entitled to 100% of the land that Israel occupied (forget the fact that Israel has already given back the entire Negev to Egypt in a “land for peace” deal, and has already uprooted its settlers to give back the Gaza Strip). The Palestinians insist on Israel being returned to its pre-1967 borders, including dividing once again the holy city of Jerusalem, which it intends to make its capital. And even after the rest of the occupied territory is given “back” to Palestinians, they are still demanding the right of return into the Jewish State. They want it all, despite being the aggressors.
I happen to support a two-state solution, convinced of the argument as expressed by former President Ehud Barak when he spoke in Great Neck, that Israel cannot swallow up the Palestinians and simultaneously remain secure and democratic – the demographics are such that unless Palestinians are not allowed full citizenship (and the ability to vote and be represented in the Knesset), the Jewish State would fairly quickly become majority Muslim.
But what I don’t understand is that the Arabs who sought in 1967 and still today seek to destroy Israel (despite any calculatedly tempered language) should have all the territory returned without bearing any consequence.
Israel should not apologize for taking the lead on drawing the new borders – it should dictate those borders according to its own self-interest, and that means a unified Jerusalem and a border that includes the vast majority of the settlers, and no right of return.
Israel should be a contiguous nation with defensible borders – not hollowed out with a Gaza strip from which thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel’s civilian communities and would continue to be an incubator for terror attacks. That is intolerable. Israel should take back Gaza and allow the Palestinians to relocate to the new Palestinian state, or if they stay, become loyal citizens of Israel (yes I recognize the issue, but Israel already has Arab citizens). This would not be the same as ethnic cleansing, which is repugnant, because the Palestinians would not be thrown out. They would have the freedom to choose their citizenship, just as they chose to leave in the first place. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers would also have to be uprooted from the territory that abuts Jordan.
This is not to be confused with another sticking point, which oddly is rarely mentioned in terms of why the Israel-Palestine conflict has been intractable: the right of return. There should not be any right of return. In the first place, the Arabs who left, left because they thought they would be able to join the conquering army and throw out the Jews. In other instances, the land was purchased.
So, looking at the map that Rosenblum presented, carve out from that a Palestinian State. Let the Palestinians make their desert bloom as the Israelis did with sweat, innovation and invention.
I heard all of this, and then went to the UN General Assembly and heard Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basically say what Rosenblum said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the larger Arab-Israel conflict – was the cornerstone, the touchstone about how to think about the Mideast, …the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the driver – if you don’t solve that problem, you don’t solve anything. Today, one has to think of Israel-Palestine in context of Mideast imploding with contagion.” And terrorism that has spilled over from the Mideast.
Netanyahu, put it another way:”We’re in the midst of a great revolution. A revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations. This is happening because so many countries around the world have finally woken up to what Israel can do for them.” This is because, he said, “Israel is THE innovation nation. THE place for cutting-edge technology and agriculture, in water, in cybersecurity, in medicine, in autonomous vehicles” and counterterrorism. Israel hasprovided intelligence that has prevented dozens of major terrorist attacks around the world. We have saved countless lives. Now, you may not know this, but your governments do, and they’re working closely together with Israel to keep your countries safe and your citizens safe.”
Indeed, Netanyahu had very little to say about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, except almost matter-of-factly, “Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.” Instead, he devoted a considerable portion of his remarks attacking Iran and a call to “fix or nix” the Iran nuclear agreement and rein in Iran’s terror activities.
But while Netanyahu seemed to breeze through the Israel-Palestinian conflict (the topic of a Security Council meeting on Sept. 25), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his General Assembly address, went on a tirade about how dare the UN not enforce the 1967 borders, including making Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, how dare the good people of the world not boycott the settlements, how dare Britain not apologize for the Balfour Declaration, and not make reparations to the poor, poor Palestinians, and how could the UN not demand the right of return (with recompense) to Palestinian refugees.
Mind you, Netanyahu had only hours before called the United Nations “the epicenter of global anti-Semitism.”
There is a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict: a two-state solution around practical borders that Israel gets to set. But there does not seem to be the ability to embrace it, as even Rosenblum, who has been working on the issue for 42 years, seemed to conclude:
“They will not by themselves have the will or capacity to pull themselves out of the mud and blood they are soaking in. Leaders on all sides -Netanyahu, Abbas, Trump – represent not the Three Musketeers but the Three Stooges. They will take us no where toward a historic breakthrough.
“The Israeli street and Arab street are stuck as to whether enemy or frenemy for eternity. Every morning, Mideast changes- yesterday frenemy is today ally, yesterday enemy is frenemy today.
“We have to find way of addition through subtraction,” said Rosenblum. “The real hope for a breakthrough toward Israel-Palestinian peace is coming from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Gulf States except Qatar. They treat Israel as an ally, a bulwark against Iran – that’s what the Trump generals are most interested in working on.”
In his speech to the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 20, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine, railed against Israel, the United Nations, Great Britain and every nation that has commerce with Israel, and demonstrated why the Israel-Palestine issue is intractable. His notion of a two-state solution is for Israel, which beat back an invasion in 1967 intended to annihilate the Jewish state, to return to 1967 borders which means splitting Jerusalem which he wants as his capital and leaving Israel with undefendible borders, and allow the right of return for Palestinians who long ago left – which would demographically overrun Israel. These are the same sticking points that have prevented the solution for decades since Israel has agreed to swap land for peace – as when they completely exited the Gaza Strip, only to have thousands of rockets rained down on Israeli communities.
Abbas gave a hard-line speech, stating that 24 years had passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, an interim agreement that set a five-year period for ending the Israeli occupation. Today, he asked what was left of that hope. Israel continued to pursue its settlements, breaching all international conventions and resolutions on the question of Palestine. The United Nations bore a legal, moral and humanitarian obligation to end the occupation and enable Palestinians to live in freedom in their independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the 4 June 1967 borders. Doing so would deprive terrorist groups of a rallying cry that they exploited to promote their repugnant ideas.
He pressed Great Britain “to rectify the grave injustice inflicted on Palestinian people when issued Balfour Declaration, promising Jews a national homeland in Palestine – despite the fact that it was inhabited … … 97% of population were Palestinians…The British have not taken any steps to correct this historical injustice against our people – should apologize and provide us with compensation and recognize the state of Palestine. Even worse, in November they want to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of this crime against our people – the silence from the international community as to the aggression of the Israel government has emboldened Israel – I remind you that Israel violated international resolutions since its establishment….”
“The two-State solution is today in jeopardy,” he said. Palestine had called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and prosecute Israeli officials involved in settlement activities, and would continue to pursue its accession to international conventions, protocols and organizations. Palestine had upheld its responsibilities towards its people in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly affirming that “Gaza will not be the Palestinian State” and that “there can be no Palestinian State without Gaza”. He expressed gratitude for the agreement reached in Cairo aimed at nullifying measures taken by Hamas following division of the area and formation of a government.
To save the two-State solution, he urged the United Nations to help end the Israeli occupation within a set timeframe and implement the Arab Peace Initiative. It should work to end all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; ensure international protection of the land and people of the State of Palestine in line with resolutions 605 (1987), 672 (1990), 673 (1990) and 904 (1994); and demand that Israel commit to the 1967 borders as the basis for the two-State solution. He similarly urged Member States that recognized Israel to proclaim that their recognition was based on the 1967 borders, and thus align themselves with international resolutions.
States should also end their involvement and support to the illegal Israeli colonial regime in the occupied State of Palestine, he said, pressing those that had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so, in fulfillment of the principle of equality. For its part, the Security Council should approve the State of Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership, while the broader international community should continue providing economic and financial support to Palestinians to achieve self-reliance, as well as support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Abbas Meets with Trump
Later, before a bilateral meeting with United States President Donald Trump, Abbas said this meeting “attests to your seriousness” to “achieve the deal of the century,” during this year or in the coming months. And we are very certain that “you Mr President are determined” to bring peace in the Middle East. And “this gives us the assurance and the confidence that we are on the verge of real peace” between the Palestinian and the Israelis, he said.
“We have met with our brave and active delegation” more than 20 times after January 20, Abbas said. “This is an indication of how serious you are” about peace in the Middle East.
“You will find utmost seriousness on our part to achieve peace,” President Abbas said because it is in the interest of Israel and Palestine.
“We can coexist peacefully together,” the President said. “Once again Mr. President, we count on you.”
Trump said he has been hearing about peace in the Middle East since the time he was a little boy. And for so many years “I have been hearing about” peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We are fighting very hard, we are trying very hard” to achieve this peace. “If we do it, it would be a great great legacy for everybody,” Trump said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his address to the General Assembly Sept. 19, 2017, pointed to “a revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations,” heaped effusive praise on US President Donald Trump, but chided the United Nations as the “epicenter for anti-Semitism” in its resolutions. But he used a good portion of his address to follow Trump’s condemnation of the Iran nuclear agreement (which Trump has hinted he would de-certify). Netanyahu called to “fix or nix” the Iran nuclear agreement, heaping harsh attacks on Iran as a purveyor of terror in the region. Later, Iranian President Rouhani and Palestinian President Abbas hurled attacks back at Israel, a reminder of why the conflicts are so intractable. Here is a highlighted transcript of Netanyahu’s speech- Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we’re in the midst of a great revolution. A revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations. This is happening because so many countries around the world have finally woken up to what Israel can do for them. Those countries now recognize what brilliant investors, like Warren Buffet, and great companies, like Google and Intel, what they’ve recognized and known for years: that Israel is THE innovation nation.THE place for cutting-edge technology and agriculture, in water, in cybersecurity, in medicine, in autonomous vehicles. You name it, we’ve got it.
Those countries now also recognize Israel’s exceptional capabilities in fighting terrorism. In recent years, Israel has provided intelligence that has prevented dozens of major terrorist attacks around the world. We have saved countless lives. Now, you may not know this, but your governments do, and they’re working closely together with Israel to keep your countries safe and your citizens safe. I stood here last year on this podium, and I spoke about this profound change in Israel’s standing around the world. And just look at what has happened since, in one year.
Hundreds of presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other leaders have visited Israel, many for the first time. Of these many visits, two were truly historic. In May, President Trump became the first American president to include Israel in his first visit abroad. President Trump stood at the Western Wall, at the foot of the Temple Mount, where the Jewish people – or rather the Jewish people’s temples stood for nearly 1,000 years, and when the president touched those ancient stones, he touched our hearts forever.
In July, Prime Minister Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel. You may have seen ten pictures. We were on a beach in Hadera, we rode together in a Jeep outfitted with a portable desalination device that some thriving Israeli entrepreneur invented. We took off our shoes, waded into the Mediterranean, and drank seawater that had been purified only a few minutes earlier. We imagined the endless possibilities for India, for Israel, for all of humanity.
In the past year, Israel has hosted so many world leaders, and I had the honor of representing my country on six different continents. One year, six continents. I went to Africa, where I saw Israeli innovators increasing crop yields, turning air into water, fighting AIDS. I went to Asia, where we deepened our relations with China and with Singapore and expanded our cooperation with our Muslim friends in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. I went to Europe, where in London and Paris, Saloniki and Budapest, we enhanced our security and economic ties. I went to Australia, becoming the first Israeli prime minister to visit our great allies down under, and just last week, I went to South America, visiting Argentina and Colombia, and then I went on to Mexico, becoming, if you can believe it, the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit Latin America.
After 70 years, the world is embracing Israel, and Israel is embracing the world.
One year, six continents. Now, it’s true: I haven’t yet visited Antarctica, but one day, I hope to go there. I want to go there, too, because I heard that penguins are also enthusiastic supporters of Israel. Now, you laugh, but penguins have no difficulty recognizing that some things are black and white, are right and wrong, and unfortunately, when it comes to UN decisions about Israel, that simple recognition is too often absent.
It was absent last December when the Security Council passed an anti-Israel resolution that set back the cause of peace. It was absent last May when the World Health Organization adopted – you have to listen to this – the World Health Organization adopted a Syrian-sponsored resolution that criticized Israel for health conditions on the Golan Heights. As the great John McEnroe would say, you cannot be serious. I mean, this is preposterous. Syria has barrel-bombed, starved, gassed and murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and wounded millions more, while Israel has provided life-saving medical care to thousands of Syrian victims of that very same carnage. Yet who does the World Health Organization? Israel.
So is there no limit to the UN’s absurdities when it comes to Israel? Well, apparently not. Because in July, UNESCO declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site. That’s worse than fake news; that’s fake history. Mind you, it’s true that Abraham, the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, is buried there, but so, too, are Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – Sarah’s a Jewish name, by the way – Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, who just happened to be patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. Well, you won’t read about that in the latest UNESCO report, but if you want to, you can read about it in a somewhat weightier publication. It’s called “the Bible.” I highly recommend it. I hear it even got four and a half out of five stars on Amazon. And it’s a great read. I read it every week.
Ladies and gentlemen, a moment to be serious. Despite the absurdities, despite the repetition of these farcical events, there is change, slowly but surely. There are signs of positive change, even at the United Nations.
Mr. Secretary-General, I very much appreciate your statement that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism, pure and simple. Now that’s important because for too long, the epicenter of global anti-Semitism has been right here at the UN, and while it may take many years, I’m absolutely confident that the revolution in Israel’s ties with individual nations will ultimately be reflected here in this hall of nations.
I say that because there’s also a marked change in the positions of some of our key friends. Thanks to President Trump’s unequivocal support for Israel in this body, that positive change is gathering force.So thank you, President Trump. Thank you for supporting Israel at the UN, and thank you for your support, Ambassador Nikki Haley. Thank you for speaking the truth about Israel.
But ladies and gentlemen, here at the UN, we must also speak the truth about Iran, as President Trump did so powerfully this morning. Now, as you know, I’ve been ambassador to the UN, and I’m a long-serving Israeli prime minister, so I’ve listened to countless speeches in this hall, but I can say this: None were bolder, none were more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today. President Trump rightlycalled the nuclear deal with Iran – he called it “an embarrassment.” Well, I couldn’t agree with him more. And here’s why: Iran vows to destroy my country. Every day, including by its chief of staff the other day.
Iran is conducting a campaign of conquest across the Middle East, and Iran is developing ballistic missiles to threaten the entire world.
Two years ago, I stood here and explained why the Iranian nuclear deal not only doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, but actually paves it. Because the restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear program have what’s called “a sunset clause.” Now let me explain what that term means. It means that in a few years, those restrictions will be automatically removed, not by a change in Iran’s behavior, not by a lessening of its terror or its aggression: they’ll just be removed by a mere change in the calendar. And I warned that when that sunset comes, a dark shadow will be cast over the entire Middle East and the world because Iran will then be free to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, placing it on the threshold of a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. That’s why I said two years ago that the greater danger is not that Iran will rush to a single bomb by breaking the deal, but that Iran will be able to build many bombs by keeping the deal.
Now, in the last few months, we’ve all seen how dangerous even a few nuclear weapons can be in the hands of a small rogue regime. Now imagine the danger of hundreds of nuclear weapons in the hands of a vast Iranian-Islamist empire with the missiles to deliver them anywhere on earth. I know there are those who still defend the dangerous deal with Iran, arguing that it will block Iran’s path to the bomb. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s exactly what they said about the nuclear deal with North Korea, and we all know how that turned out.
Unfortunately, if nothing changes, this deal will turn out exactly the same way. That’s why Israel’s policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran is very simple: Change it or cancel it. Fix it or nix it. Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability. Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is a suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation. But above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause. And beyond fixing this bad deal, we must also stop Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and roll back its growing aggression in the region.
I remember when we had these debates. As you know, I took a fairly active role in them – and many supporters of the deal naively believed that it would somehow moderate Iran. It would make it a responsible member, so they said, of the international community. Well, you know, I strongly disagreed. I warned that when the sanctions on Iran would be removed, Iran would behave like a hungry tiger unleashed, not joining the community of nations, but devouring nations one after the other. And that’s precisely what Iran is doing today.
From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East. Iran spreads this curtain of tyranny and terror over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, and it pledges to extinguish the light of Israel. Today, I have a simple message to Ayatollah Khamenei, the dictator of Iran: The light of Israel will never be extinguished.
נצח ישראל לא ישקר.
Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions. We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria or in Lebanon for use against us. And we will act to prevent Iran from opening new terror fronts against Israel along our northern border. As long as Iran’s regime seeks the destruction of Israel, Iran will face no fiercer enemy than Israel.
But I also have a message today for the people of Iran: You are not our enemy. You are our friends. (Farsi: Shoma duste ma hesteed.) One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you, hangs gays, jails journalists, tortures political prisoners and shoots innocent women like Neda Soltan, leaving her choking on her own blood on the streets of Tehran. I have not forgotten Neda. I’m sure you haven’t, too. And so, the people of Iran, when your day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again.
Ladies and gentlemen, Israel knows that in confronting the Iranian regime, we are not alone. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those in the Arab world who share our hopes for a brighter future. We’ve made peace with Jordan and Egypt, whose courageous president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi I met here last night. I appreciate President al-Sissi’s support for peace, and I hope to work closely with him and other leaders in the region to advance peace.
Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians. Yesterday, President Trump and I discussed this, all of this, at great length. I appreciate President Trump’s leadership, his commitment to stand by Israel’s side, his commitment to advance a peaceful future for all. Together, we can seize the opportunities for peace, and together we can confront the great dangers of Iran.
The remarkable alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger, never been deeper. And Israel is deeply grateful for the support of the Trump administration, the American Congress and the American people.
Ladies and gentlemen, in this year of historic visits and historic anniversaries, Israel has so much to be grateful for. One hundred and twenty years ago, Theodore Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress to transform our tragic past into a brilliant future by establishing the Jewish state. One hundred years ago, the Balfour Declaration advanced Herzl’s vision by recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a national home in our ancestral homeland. Seventy years ago, the United Nations further advanced that vision by adopting a resolution supporting the establishment of a Jewish state. And 50 years ago, we reunited our eternal capital, Jerusalem, achieving a miraculous victory against those who sought to destroy our state.
Theodore Herzl was our modern Moses, and his dream has come true. We’ve returned to the Promised Land, revived our language, ingathered our exiles, and build a modern, thriving democracy. Tomorrow evening, Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of our new year. It’s a time of reflection, and we look back with wonder at the remarkable, the miraculous rebirth of our nation, and we look ahead with pride to the remarkable contributions Israel will continue to make to all nations.
You look around you, and you will see these contributions every day. In the food you eat, the water you drink, the medicines you take, the cars you drive, the cell phones you use, and in so many other ways that are transforming our world. You see it in the smile of an African mother in a remote village who, thanks to an Israeli innovation, no longer must walk eight hours a day to bring water to her children. You see it in the eyes of an Arab child who was flown to Israel to undergo a life-saving heart operation. And you see it in the faces of the people in earthquake-stricken Haiti and Nepal who were rescued from the rubble and given new life by Israeli doctors. As the prophet Isaiah said, (says in Hebrew first) “I’ve made you alight onto the nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Today, 27 hundred years after Isaiah spoke those prophetic words, Israel is becoming a rising power among the nations, and at long last, its light is shining across the continents, bringing hope and salvation to the ends of the earth.
Happy new year. Shanah tovah from Israel. Thank you.
Iran Exerts Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of the Israeli regime had made unfounded allegations against his country. The nature of that regime was founded on aggression, occupation, suppression, violence and terror, he said, adding that in the information age, “weapons of mass deception” were becoming more useless day by day. That representative could have explained why his regime had invaded all its neighbours, and even countries outside its region, waging 15 wars in its short lifetime. Why did that regime continue to disrespect resolutions adopted by the Assembly, the Security Council and other United Nations bodies, he asked, and why was it a State sponsor of terrorism, including support for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) with arms and other military assistance. It was the world’s last apartheid regime and the warden of its biggest prison, arresting and jailing Palestinians and imposing an inhumane blockade on the Gaza Strip. He went on to ask why that regime, the only nuclear weapons possessor in the Middle East, lectured the world on non-proliferation and Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. The representative of the Israeli regime had hypocritically tried to abuse the Assembly by accusing others and stirring anxiety about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said. It was a regime that favored conflict and war over diplomacy, he added.
People around the world are holding their collective breath as to what Donald Trump will do when he comes to the United Nations for the 72nd General Assembly. Will he be like a bull in a china shop, or will he stick to the speech written for him on the teleprompter? At a press briefing at the White House September 15, the National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlined what is supposed to happen, and the policies and positions Trump will proclaim. Here is a highlighted transcript – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
GENERAL MCMASTER: Good afternoon, everyone. I also want to begin by acknowledging the horrific attacks in Europe [London, England where an improvised explosive was set off in the underground during rush hour and in Burgundy, France where a counterterrorism soldier was attacked]. The United States, of course, stands in solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom and France. We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to prevent attacks. And, of course, the United States remains committed to defeating terrorist organizations, as well as their evil ideology.
The President has been unambiguous here, energizing our defeat-ISIS campaign, and calling on Muslim-majority nations to combat extremism and to end financing of terrorist organizations. We will defend our people and our values against these cowardly attacks, and we will always stand with countries around the world to do the same.
Now, I want to turn to President Trump’s trip next week to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. The President’s consistent message across all of his engagements throughout the week will emphasize three goals common to all nations who will be gathered there: First, to promote peace. Second, to promote prosperity. And third, to uphold sovereignty and accountability.
A peaceful world depends on the contributions of all nations. We must share responsibility for international security, while each country protects the security of its own people.
Prosperity is also a shared responsibility. The President looks forward to furthering economic cooperation, investment opportunities, and new business ties with other governments and businesses across the world. As always, this administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair, and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks.
Sovereignty and accountability are the essential foundations of peace and prosperity. America respects the sovereignty of other countries, expects other nations to do the same, and urges all governments to be accountable to their citizens. That accountability is broken down in places such as Venezuela and Syria. And we also see, today, revisionist powers who are threatening the sovereignty in the greater Middle East, Eastern and Southern Europe, and in East Asia.
Now, let me quickly run through the President’s schedule. On Monday, the President will join senior U.N. leadership and the leaders of more than 120 other nations to discuss reforming the institution. The President will express support for Secretary General Guterres’s reform efforts. The United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it’s run more efficiently and effectively.
That day, the President will also meet with the leaders of France and Israel, two of America’s closest allies. While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus.
Monday evening, the President will host a working dinner with Latin American leaders. He’s looking forward to discussing the crisis in Venezuela, as well as our increasingly strong economic ties, shared goals for elevating the prosperity of our peoples, and the extraordinary success of likeminded Latin American nations in recent decades.
The President’s Tuesday morning speech to the General Assembly will emphasize the need for states to promote peace and prosperity, while upholding sovereignty and accountability as indispensable foundations of international order.He will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all. If nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us.
Later that day, the President will have lunch with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meet with this year’s General Assembly President, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, and meet with the Emir of Qatar. In the evening, he will host a traditional diplomatic reception.
On Wednesday, the President will meet with the leaders of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. He will host a working luncheon with African leaders to discuss how the United States can help African nations develop their economies, address urgent challenges, and strengthen security relationships and economic relationships between our nations.
Finally, on Thursday, the President will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. The latter two countries in particular have suffered direct and persistent attacks on their sovereignty in recent years.
He will also host a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan. As Kim Jong-un’s most recent missile launch demonstrates, North Korea remains one of the world’s most urgent and dangerous security problems. It is vital that all nations work together to do our utmost to solve that problem.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Haley.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Thank you very much. And I will tell you that next week is not going to be short on topics. I think, first of all, we can all say it is a new day at the U.N. The U.N. has shifted over the past several months. It’s not just about talking, it’s about action.
The members are starting to get used to act, whether it’s Security Council resolutions, whether it’s with U.N. reform, whether it’s with peacekeeping. We’re starting to see a lot of changes at the U.N. They are all anxious to see what the U.S. delegation looks like next week, and I think they will be heavily impressed with the fact that we have the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and many members of the National Security Council coming to really show the U.S. strength that we have in the world.
And I think — obviously this will be the first time that the President has addressed the General Assembly. They are all very anxious to hear what he has to say. And I think that he will make quite an impact in terms of all of the issues that we’re dealing with.
We have three events that will be extremely important. First, the President will highlight the U.N. reform event. It is very, very important. We’ve got a massive reform package being led by the Secretary General that really streamlines not just the processes, but also the budget as it goes forward, and makes the U.N. much more effective. We basically have the President headlining a U.N. reform effort, which would really support the Secretary General. But the impressive part is, we asked other countries to sign on to their support of reform, and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance. That’s a miraculous number.
The Vice President will be doing two very important briefings. He’s going to do one on Human Rights Council. Now more than ever, human rights matters. We say all the time that if the government doesn’t take care of its people, bad things will happen. And I think we’re seeing that in multiple places, and that’s all the reason why the Human Rights Council really needs to be effective. We have offered reform. I think the Vice President will go in and not only support the reform, but talk about why it’s needed and the areas that are really needing to be addressed when it comes to human rights.
The second one he’s going to do is on peacekeeping. And in the last several months, we have taken every peacekeeping mandate and changed it. Basically, we have saved half a billion dollars in peacekeeping. But before anyone thinks that’s a travesty, basically the way they handled peacekeeping in the past was, if there was a challenged area they would throw more troops at it. But they didn’t see if the troops were trained or give them the equipment to do their job. Now we’re going towards the political solution, making sure the troops are trained and armed, making sure that we’re more effective. So it’s smarter and it cut half a billion, and in some cases we’re having to increase, and in some cases we’re having to decrease.
So having the Vice President talk about the importance of the peacekeeping being effective is going to be very important.
And then, as I said, there are no shortage of issues, with North Korea being front and center. Iran will be an issue. Syria will certainly be talked about. Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic on what we’re dealing with. And obviously the humanitarian issues that we face around the world.
So, with that, I think the General Assembly is going to be quite active next week, and I think the U.S. is going to be very strong next week. And we look forward to a very good week.
GENERAL MCMASTER: Gentleman in the center.
Q Thank you, General. My question is about North Korea, which is perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge for President Trump right now. About a month ago, the President issued a threat to North Korea; he warned of “fire and fury.” And as you know, Ambassador, at the U.N. Security Council you’ve imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea. Both of these efforts do not seem to be changing their behavior. Is it time for the U.S. to change its approach to North Korea? Is that something that you’re contemplating? And, General, if you could weigh on this well. I appreciate it.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I think what was really important with North Korea was that we try and push through as many diplomatic options as we have. If you look at the resolutions that have passed in the last month, the two of them, they cut 30 percent of the oil. They banned all the laborers. They banned 90 percent of the exports. They banned joint ventures. We’ve basically taken and, in the words of North Korea, we have strangled their economic situation at this point. That’s going to take a little bit of time, but it has already started to take effect.
What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless. And at that point, there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil.
So, having said that, I have no problem kicking it to General Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.
Q General, can you weigh on that too?
GENERAL MCMASTER: I’d just emphasize the point that Ambassador Haley made. These sanctions are just now taking effect. What’s really important is rigorous enforcement of those sanctions so that we can really let the economic actions and diplomacy progress as best we can. But I think we ought to make clear what’s different about this approach is, is that we’re out of time, right? As Ambassador Haley said before, we’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.
And so for those who have said and have been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option. Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war.
So that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place, and it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can and that it’s in their interest to do it.
What’s different, I think, about this approach to North Korea is worth noting. First of all, there is consensus among all key nations that denuclearization of the Peninsula is the only acceptable objective.
The second thing is, this is not an issue between the United States and North Korea. This is an issue between the world and North Korea.
And the third recognition is, there is a lot that we can about it together. And so we need time, obviously, for any strategy to work. It is a sound approach to a very difficult problem, and we’ll see if it succeeds.
Q Ambassador Haley, a conference call preceded your briefing here. Jonathan Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that next week’s UNGA will be as much the world taking measure of the United States as it is the U.S. speaking to the world. He went on to say that the UNGA, because of its very quick meetings, is sort of like speed dating from hell, and that it’s a very sophisticated dance that neither Secretary of State Tillerson or the President have a particularly strong point on. What would you say to people who are wondering how the U.S. will do at next week’s UNGA?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I think there’s a lot of interest in how the U.S. is going to do, and they’re going to find out we are going to be solid, we’re going to be strong.
If you look at all of the meetings that the national security team has, these are important meetings. These aren’t just wasting time. This is going to talk about terrorism; this is going to talk about the issues in North Korea; this is going to talk about the issue in Burma and what we’re dealing with there; Venezuela — all of these issues. No one is going to grip and grin. The United States is going to work.
And I think with all of the challenges around the world, I think the international community is going to see that. This is a time to be serious, and it’s a time for us to talk out these challenges and make sure there’s action that follows it.
Q One of the big questions from some of the people outside of this room and other countries is, in addition to what we do militarily is the humanitarian effort. And we’ve been criticized for not being involved in the humanitarian effort too much, especially by the third world. So when you go to New York, in addition to addressing the security measures, how are you going to address the criticism about the U.S. not leading humanitarian efforts?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: We actually have led humanitarian efforts and continue to. Human rights, in general, is very important. That’s something we’ve been loud on, which is the fact that you have to protect human rights.
But the humanitarian side of what we’re seeing in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; what we’re seeing with the Syrian refugees that are in Turkey and Jordan; the fact that we are trying to deal with Burma and find out ways that we can get humanitarian access in there. Yemen is something that the United States has been working very closely with the Saudis on and the U.N. to try and make sure we get humanitarian access.
So we have been as active and vocal and leading the charge on humanitarian access in all of these areas, and we are making a difference. I think just in Syria, we’ve had over $3 billion that we’ve given, in terms of helping that situation. Venezuela, you saw what we did with the sanctions, but we’re making sure they get that. Right now in Burma, we are taking that very seriously, and that’s of utmost importance that we get front and center on that one.
Q I have a question first to General McMaster before I get to one on North Korea for you. General, you mentioned the, obviously, terror incident overseas in London. The President tweeted this morning that it was “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard.” You may have seen Prime Minister may say it was “not helpful for people to speculate.” Did the President share information that he wasn’t supposed to? And if not, why was he speculating?
GENERAL MCMASTER: I think what the President was communicating is that, obviously, all of our law enforcement efforts are focused on this terrorist threat for years. Scotland Yard has been a leader, as our FBI has been a leader.
So I think if there was a terrorist attack here, God forbid, that we would say that they were in the sights of the FBI. So I think he didn’t mean anything beyond that.
Q I’m sorry, I’m not clear. Meaning he was saying generally terrorists are a focus for Scotland Yard, or was he saying in this specific incident, Scotland Yard knew potentially this was coming?
GENERAL MCMASTER: I think he means generally that this kind of activity is what we’re trying to prevent. And so these organizations that are responsible for it, whatever comes out of this investigation, that remains to be seen. It is likely that law enforcement had been working on that problem set.
Q And did that come up in the call with Prime Minister May?
GENERAL MCMASTER: I was not on that call this morning.
Q Ambassador, to you, on North Korea. Obviously there’s more U.N. Security Council action that could be taken. Are you at all hopeful that there is any chance for a full oil embargo as this administration had wanted? Or at what point — President Trump himself said this was a small step, the last U.N. Security Council vote. I think disagreeing with you, but Secretary Tillerson agreed with him that it seemed to have been a small step. So at what point does this administration take a bigger step and, for example, put tougher sanctions on China in order to put pressure on North Korea?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Well I think, first of all, let’s talk about what a big sanctions resolution this was. The first one was a billion dollars. The second one was $1.3 billion, not counting the 30 percent decrease in oil. We did a 55 — and just imagine if this happened to the United States — a 55 percent reduction in diesel and oil. Overall ban of natural gas, overall ban of any substitutes; overall ban of textiles; stopping the labor program, which we call as modern-day slavery; stopping all joint ventures so foreign investment goes in there.
We have cut off now 90 percent of trade going into North Korea, and they are saying that this was strangling. So whether some believe it’s big or small, I think what the President is saying is this is just the beginning of what we can do.
So it’s going to be — by the time we get going on this, if we have to go further, this is going to look small compared to what we do.
But no, it was a massive sanctions bill, and I think the fact that we had a 15-0 record and you have China onboard and Russia onboard, I think that’s very important. We’ve cut 30 percent of the oil. Is there more you can do? There’s always more you can do, but then you get into the humanitarian aspect of it, which is at what point are you going and actually hurting down to the people of North Korea. But we will always explore all options that we have.
Yes, in the red.
Q Thank you, Ambassador. You said that Syria is going to be on the agenda. As you know, today Turkey, Russia, and Iran agreed to deploy 1,500 monitors in the Idlib province. Does that leave the U.S. behind? And what exactly the focus will be when you talk about Syria at the U.N. next week?
And, General, if I can, you said that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk about Iran. How much of the peace process with the Palestinians will take place in that meeting? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I think the efforts in Syria have been remarkable — both Syria and Iraq. To see how we have really bulldozed through ISIS in the way that we have shows how strong the U.S. had been in partnership with them, but I think we’re also looking at post-ISIS — what does that look like? And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.
But Syria is always going to be a topic. I think we continue to be strong in making sure there’s no chemical weapons and making sure that we’re looking at the humanitariansituation. But the U.S. is a very strong partner in the resolution for Syria and will continue to be until we know that everything is stable.
Q (Inaudible) that does not include the U.S.?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Well, I think we’re not going to be satisfied until we see a solid and stable Syria, and that is not with Assad in place. But what we are going to do is continue to be very effective and be a part of that process so that we get to a resolution.
GENERAL MCMASTER: Yeah, I’ll just say that, of course the President will talk about the prospects for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with really all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week.
Q Ambassador, two quick questions. The first one is, the fact that president Putin and President Xi Jinping won’t be there, will it have an impact on the what the outcome of whatever you’ll discuss on Syria and North Korea?
And, General, you’ve been insisting a lot on the respect of sovereignty. Wouldn’t an investment in a peacekeeping mission be part of getting involved and having a stronger impact on this?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I do think that it’s still going to be strong and have an impact because you’ve got two very strong foreign ministers from Russia and China that are going to be there. And the idea that we’re going to be talking about Syria and North Korea, and Iran, and all of those other things, I think it will be serious discussions.
And I think the fact that President Xi and President Putin couldn’t be there is not going to change the effect of the talks that we have next week.
Q Are you disappointed that they’re not going to show up?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: That’s their choice to not show up.
GENERAL MCMASTER: I would just add on to say the U.N. General Assembly is not a substitute for bilateral relationships with any nations. And as you know, the President has been working very closely, especially with President Xi, on this common problem and this world problem of North Korea.
So those discussions will continue, and it will continue in the context of multilateral engagements but also in context of our bilateral relationship with China.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Back in the back.
Q Thank you, Madam Ambassador, General. A question regarding etiquette. In the past, Presidents have copiously avoided certain world leaders. A decade ago, President Bush avoiding President Ahmadinejad when he was at the opening of the U.N. Will the President speak to President Maduro at all when he is there?
GENERAL MCMASTER: Yeah, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll speak with President Maduro. As you know, the United States designated President Maduro after he victimized his own people, denied them their rights under his own constitution. And I think as the President has made clear, he’s willing to talk at some point in the future, but it would have to be after rights are restored to the Venezuelan people.
Q Thank you, Madam Ambassador. Two questions. One, what is the future of India and the United Nations membership and Security Council? Because when Prime Minister Modi visited the White House he brought up this issue with President Trump.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Well, I think that Security Council reform is still being talked about, and I know that it’s something that India wants. Many other countries want it as well. So we’ll have to wait and see.
Q Do you have any indications right now that sanctions will work towards North Korea?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: You have to look at how much has been cut off. They’ve already started to feel it, but they’re getting ready to feel 90 percent of their exports going away; 30 percent of their oil. Imagine what that would do to the United States if it was there.
And if you look at what — I was looking at what North Korea was saying. They said it was a full-scale economic blockade, suffocating its state and its people. This is dramatic. This is something — and not only is it dramatic, but you’re looking at — Peru has dropped ties. Thailand has dropped ties. We’re seeing so many just kind of get rid of either the ambassadors or the trade that they’re doing. There is no way that North Korea doesn’t feel this.
Now, how they choose to respond, this is totally in their hands on how they respond.
One more question. I’ll let you pick who gets the last question.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Appreciate it. So I was wondering — we talked a little bit about the President, the speech that he’ll deliver on Tuesday. But I’m wondering if you could talk in any more detail now — and I’m sure we’ll get more detail later — will he be sending direct messages about Iran and North Korea in that speech? Are there any more specific themes?
And also, Ambassador Haley, I wanted to ask you: On the question of U.N. funding, I know reform is probably an important part of this question, but as a candidate, President Trump was — then-candidate Trump was somewhat skeptical about the reach and the import of the U.N., the point of it long term. As President I’m sure he’s learned more. Is the U.S. committed both to fulfilling its financial obligations? And where does it stand on terms of its voluntary funding for the U.N. going forward? Would you talk a little bit about that?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Right. To start off with the speech that the President gives, I think you can see it for yourself. I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with the U.S. being very strong in the end.
Q So it’s written, and you’ve seen it?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I have seen it, yes. And then the second part of it is, the U.N. — when I originally spoke with the President, what I said is, we’ll see what we can make of it. And that’s the thing is, we’re creating an opportunity. We’re making the most of it. We’re moving foreign policy. We’re changing the way peacekeeping is done. We’re really bringing up human rights. And more importantly, what I appreciate is they stopped focusing on the commas and the periods, and we’re actually acting. We’re actually seeing strong things happens.
And so I think the President has always believed there’s great potential in the United Nations, but I think now the world is seeing it — that it is actually changing, and it’s actually becoming more effective.
Q Will he firmly articulate his intention to continue traditional U.S. funding at full levels?
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I think you’ll have to wait and see. Thank you very much.
Q Sarah, a follow-up on something that Ambassador Haley said. She mentioned that she would feel comfortable kicking this issue to Secretary Mattis. Should Americans be concerned about the possibility of war? And how much time are you willing to give China to implement the resolutions in the U.N. Security Council agreement?
PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS: As we’ve said many times before, we’re not going to broadcast, and I’m not going to lay out a timetable on what that would look like. We’re continuing to keep all options on the table. We’re going to push forward with a plan right now.
And again, as both General McMaster and Ambassador Haley stated, we are working on putting that pressure on North Korea to reach that ultimate goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. That’s what we’re focused on. We’re going to go keep pushing forward on that front. But at the same time, we’re going to keep all our options on the table as we do that.
Q What will the President say to the leaders that he meets next week who are eager for talks with North Korea? I know that the President has opposed that. How will he address that with the Europeans and others who are in favor of it?
SANDERS: I’m certainly not going to get ahead of any conversations that the President is going to have. As always, we’ll provide readouts and background of those conversations. But I think the President will be very clear that putting extreme pressure on North Korea is very important.
Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, argued forcefully for a two-state solution as the only way to preserve “The Zionist Project” – a nation that is both Jewish and democratic. Indeed, he asserted, a two-state solution is the only way to preserve Israel as a strong, independent nation.
While there are no options that do not bring risk, he asserted, the basis for his contention is that Israel is the strongest economy and has the strongest military in the region, would insist on drawing the border lines that protect its security. The existential threat, he argued, would be to abandon the two-state solution.
And he insisted that Israel’s Right Wing government leaders need to wrest themselves from paralysis and politics and act, even unilaterally, to setting the stage.
The former Prime Minister spoke in front of an audience of some 800 New Yorkers who filled Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, coming from a broad swath of the region, from Forest Hills Huntington, and representing a broad spectrum of American Jewry, from left to right wing.
Barak laid out a cogent argument, based on a lifetime at the center of Israel’s defense, politics and leadership, serving as Prime Minister, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and most recently as Minister of Defense, and set out the context for his insistence that Israel’s existential threat is not from the formation of a Palestinian state, but the lack of one.
“The Zionist Project is by far the most successful national project of the 20th century. When [the early settlers] originally came, 120 years ago, there was literally nothing – 70% of the land was desert, 2 lakes, one alive the other dead, connected by the River Jordan that looks like a neighborhood creek – more history flowed than water.”
In the last 70 years since Israel was established asa nation, despite seven wars, two intifadas and countless terror attacks, the population grew by a factor of 12; the GDP by 70. The Israeli currency (shekel) is one of the strongest in the world. “We are a start-up nation, with more firms on NASDQ than any other. Thanks to the arrival of 1 million Russian Jews between 1990 and 2000, we have more orchestras, ballet companies, chess grand champions per capita than any in the world.”
There are a lot of internal tensions, certainly – many that mirror what is happening in other countries: rich and poor, Arabs and Jews, secular and religious, even the status of Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel which though secular, is dominated by Orthodox Jewry – “they are not treated equally in our homeland.”
And then there are the external tensions, such as the spreading BDS [The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement, particularly on American college campuses.
“There is great worry about what happens abroad- the position of Israel in the international community is deteriorating – BDS has spread over the world.
“There are question marks about our policies, something that disturbs the Jewish Diaspora even in this country. We are losing part of the young generation in universities especially in North America and even among young Jewish students. This all needs treatment.”
Israel’s relations in the areas “liberated or occupied is in the eye of the beholder” has been a central problem for the past 50 years since the Six Day War when Israel won territory now known as the West Bank and the Sinai (which in exchange for peace, Israel returned to Egypt years ago).
He said that the rise of ISIS and the globalized threat of terror from radical Islamic jihadists ironically creates an opportunity because it has elevated Israel’s position as an essential actor in a global conflict, while at the same time diminishing the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a regional one.
“The whole world in the last decade is facing unprecedented geopolitical earthquake, the kind of which we had not witnessed since the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It covers the whole world, but concentrates around the Middle East. Within the last few years, the Arab Spring turned into an Islamist Winter; nation states collapsed, borders erased, centuries-old conflicts came back to life. Israel found itself in a perfect storm – on the one hand, at the clashing point of civilizations of the West and the world of Islam, and at same time, in the eye of a storm that swirls around the Arab world.
“In this situation for Israel, can see bad news and good news: the bad news is clear – the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. The good news is that Israel, as a result of its achievements, is the strongest country 1000 miles around Jerusalem, from Benghazi in Libya to Tehran in Iran.
“And Israel is going to remain the strongest country in this area for the foreseeable future.”
It’s not just its military defenses – with the help of a supportive US administration – but its strong economy – not the biggest, but the most vibrant in the region.
Barak argues that “Israel, being the strongest player all around the area, can use this position of strength in a self-confident manner” to finally resolve the Palestinian issue.
Israel has always faced existential threats. “We always have to look around, ready to pull trigger../Every several years a new threat emerges- ISIS – old ones, Hamas, Hezbollah – all alive and kicking. Out of all these changes the more demanding is terror. It has become the great fight for the whole globe, which might take years, and must be defeated. The choice for the modern world is clear: either you defeat terror or you might find yourselves defeated by it.
“But this is not a new phenomena – it’s been with us a long time,” he said, recalling as a 22-year old, how as a member of a commando team, he had to rescue a hijacked Sabena airplane; and later, deal with the terrorists who massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
He argued that ISIS is more effective from a propaganda point of view – using the media and Internet to heighten its fearsomeness.
“They are effective in sowing fear, but a military threat? Ridiculous. They are succeeding because they never met a real fighting force- they are 50,000 fighters in 5000 Toyota pickups with WWII-era machine guns, a few old Soviet tanks,– not a real fighting force. They should be met on the ground and defeated by Muslims, not Crusaders or Israelis. That takes time, effort. We can help Iraqis, Kurdish, air support, intelligence, special forces – that will take time. But I am confident that ISIS will be defeated on the ground in the Mideast. That doesn’t mean the phenomenon will disappear, because of its capacity to incite. We don’t know how many Americans have joined and will come home. However loosely connected, they are part of flexible web of organization.
“This is a global phenomenon, a generational war. And it needs international cooperation. We join hands among the leaders of the world.”
“We are never going to find ourselves in an ideal world,” he says soberly. “The Mideast is never going to resemble Scandinavia.”
Which brings him to the next part of his argument:
“The major debate in Israel – how to relate to our Palestinian neighbors problem – is painful but simple. In a small piece of ground about the size of New Jersey, from the River Jordan (the size of a creek) to the Mediterranean live 13.5 million – 8.5 million Israelis, 5 million Palestinians. Among the 8.5 million Israelis are 1.5 million Arab Israelis – 99.9% are law-abiding citizens” but who are likely to vote with Palestinians.
If there is only one, that is Israel, it is inevitable that it will be non-Jewish or nondemocratic. That is because millions of Palestinians have their own national aspirations. There are only two possibilities – if they vote for Knesset [members] Israel overnight becomes a bi-national state and within few years a bi-national state with an Arab majority, almost surely civil war, and no future.
“The other alternative in a one-state Israel, is that the Arabs cannot vote for Knesset members. That doesn’t have a name in Hebrew but in Afrikaner, it means we would develop into an apartheid system.
“Neither is the Zionist dream. It is the consequence of a painful but simple reality: we need a compelling imperative to find a way to disengage ourselves from Palestinians and create a line in Israel that would include settlement blocks and the Israeli’ suburbs of eastern Jerusalem. That would include 80% of the settlers. Beyond this line, should be a place for a viable Palestinian state.
“I reemphasize: it’s not because of the need for justice for Palestinians, not because of the international community, it’s out of our compelling imperative to take care of our own security, future and identity.
“When the right wing in Israel tells you there is no way to bring together the vital security interest of Israel and a two-state solution – that the two are incompatible – that’s not true.
“The Right Wing in Israel [Netanyahu’s Likud government] try to create symmetry between these two arguments, but there is no symmetry. On the one hand, there is immediate existential threat to the future of the whole Zionist project.”
And here, Barak got more technical:
On other hand, there is certain risk which should not be taken lightly. We need to invest some equipment, some … changes in doctrine that a hostile, foreign force cannot enter into the West Bank and threaten.” But, he says, rockets can already come from all around the Mideast. They can be dealt with using advanced technology. Israel already possesses the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, especially for short-range and mid-range rockets.
There are risks and challenges to both, “but that shouldn’t paralyze you from seeing difference between existential threat and the technical military risk we’ve lived with. In a way, what happens in the Mideast doesn’t increase the threat to Israel, but reduces it.
“So the Right Wing is paralyzed in the mindset of pessimism, passivity, anxiety and self victimization. They see shadows on the walls. I see great opportunities, not without risk, but everything in life carries risk, and in many cases, the greatest risk of all is being unable to take one.”
“Zionism is a story about taking fate in our own hands.”
He points to “an opportunity that happens once in generation and might disappear in a year or more, of a joint common interest that has developed between us and Sunni moderate leadership – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others. The common interest is fighting together against Islamist radical terror; the second is to join hands and putting at bay Iranian nuclear intentions; third, to join hands in huge regional infrastructure projects – energy, water, transportation; and fourth, the Palestinian issue.”
Barak made no reference to recent statements by the Palestinian Authority, the visit of Abbas to the White House, or Trump saying he could care less whether there is one state or two states, as long as the parties agree.
[President Abbas, in his meeting at the White House, May 3, declared: “our strategic option, our strategic choice is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state — a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.
“…for us to bring about a comprehensive and just peace based on the two-state solution, such matter would give a great impetus to the Arab peace initiative and the other initiatives, international initiatives — as well as it enables to fight and deter terrorism, and fight the criminal ISIS group, ISIS — that is totally innocent and has nothing to do with our noble religion. And that also, if we create peace that is just and comprehensive, that will also lead the Arab and the Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel based, as stipulated in the previous Arab summits, the latest of which was the Arab summit in Jordan.”
While Abbas could take an outwardly more moderate stance, Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not abandoned its commitment to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
Trump has not said whether or not he cares if there is a one-state or two-state solution, as long as the parties agree.]
Barak seemed to take this into account without directly referring to the statements, saying “The situation in the Arab world, the Arab street especially, does not allow them to make any sincere statement to accept or recognize Israel as a member of the family of nations of the Mideast if the Palestinian issue is not moving forward dramatically.
“No one can tell for sure whether Palestinians are ripe for painful decisions needed from both sides for a breakthrough in peace process.”
But, he added, Israel should not wait, but should initiate forward movement. “I argue that even if there is no way to achieve a breakthrough these days, it doesn’t mean we should be paralyzed, that we should be blind to our interest in starting…”
He said that “professionals” can find their way to a solution. “A group of the most senior leaders of ISF, Mossad, Israeli police, generals have formed Commandos for Israel Security (cis.org.il). They have proposed a practical plan for what should be done now to start disengagement, independently of Palestinians, with backing of Americans and others in the world community. “It contains all the elements – political, practical, and security – written by best experts of Israel.”
“They will tell you that Israel is better protected and safer if we delineate this line, if we have to struggle against terror that takes place from outside, beyond the line, and the real enemy of 80% of settlers that live in settlement of blocks, 220 suburbs of eastern Jerusalem, the real enemy are the elements of the government that keep poking the eye of the Palestinian government by continuing settlement operations.”
He concluded, “The Mideast is a tough neighborhood and will remain so, but we are the strongest player around and will remain the strongest player. Time has come to not just keep killing the mosquitoes, which we are doing effectively, but we should look for opportunities to drain the swamp,” he said to applause.
To do this, we need leadership which is not paralyzed by the complexity or uncertainty of the situation.
“We need leadership sober, open eyed, self confident of the strength of Israel and ready to act, holding in their hand an inner compass, not a weather vane. The most immediate and urgent mission is to put a wedge on that slippery slope toward one nation, one state for two peoples. The effect that extremists on both sides- our right wing and Hamas – both dream and act to haveone state is what makes one-state agenda the real existential threat to the Zionist project and Israel.
“It will take time. An optimist that can put wedge and take the state of Israel back on track and keep moving, the way Zionism has heralded.”
During question-and-answer, Barak dismissed the contention that settlements provide an important buffer for Israel’s security, but provides a basis for the government to use “propaganda that relieves them of doing the right thing.”
He also argued that the debate has become the equivalent of Climate Change vs Climate Denial and Creationism versus Evolution in this country, with propaganda, fake news and identity politics thrown in that makes it even harder to find a practical solution.
“The Right Wing is not committed to the security of Israel. Likud has been hostilely taken over by the settlers. The real strategy of government has a messianic tinge which does not serve the state of Israel…
“I don’t believe it is irreversible now, but if we continue to walk this slippery slope, it might become an irreversible situation. We have to act according to our interest – disengage from Palestinians, start, however gradually, short of perfect. Nothing is perfect, but that shouldn’t paralyze you from doing the right thing.”
Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY 22) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (NY 3 ) joined together to call on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 3, when he will meet with Donald Trump in the White House. The letter, signed by 36 Members of Congress, also urges the administration to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.
The Palestinian Authority has a long record of providing financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism. Begun in the 1990s, the practice continues today. Under current law, Palestinians convicted of an act of terrorism are given monetary compensation as well as employment upon release.
“It is extremely unsettling that the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial support to convicted terrorists. These policies promote acts of terrorism in the region and must be immediately addressed. Additionally, it is highly concerning that payments to terrorists and their families increase with the length of the sentence, which has the potential of encouraging particularly brutal acts of terrorism,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. “As the largest providers of aid to the Palestinians, the United States must lead the way in ensuring that the Palestinian Authority ends this practice and that peace is brought to the region, especially since innocent Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.”
“The Palestinian Authority cannot incentivize terror. Terrorists and their families cannot be paid for killing innocent people. Longstanding U.S. policy is committed to a two-state solution, but this dangerous practice pushes us further away from that goal. The United States must put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end this dangerous and unconscionable practice, which only encourages more acts of terror,” said Congressman Thomas Suozzi.
The United States provides aid to the Palestinians to assist with a wide range of needs. However, since 2015, Congress has joined together to reduce U.S. aid on a 1-to-1 ratio for every dollar that the Palestinian Authority uses for official payments to convicted terrorists. Despite the reduction, these payments to terrorists have continued. The letter urges Secretary Tillerson to use all means at his disposal to address this ongoing issue and the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to put an end to this program.
Read the full text of the letter below.
May 2, 2017
The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520-0099
Dear Secretary Tillerson,
We write today to bring an issue of bipartisan concern to your attention. For more than three decades, the Palestinian Authority has provided monetary awards and other incentives to those who have committed acts of terrorism in the region. We fear that this financial support encourages violence and serves as a clear impediment to a truly durable peace. As such, we encourage you to address this issue when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington in early May.
Since the early 1990’s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. In 2016, programs providing compensation to terrorists and their families were funded at approximately $300 million. These payments are officially sanctioned by the PA and create a perverse and troubling incentive for individual acts of terrorism. For example, under current PA law, a Palestinian who was convicted of an act of terror and given a 10-year sentence would receive $130,000 over ten years. In addition to such compensation, individuals who are incarcerated also receive a guarantee of employment following their release from prison, creating yet another incentive for terrorism.
Policies which have the potential to encourage violence in the region are simply unacceptable and given that American citizens have died in previous acts of terrorism, this is an issue of grave concern to us. For example, on November 19, 2015, 18-year old Ezra Schwartz, an American boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was murdered by a Palestinian in an attack that left him and two others dead. The individual charged with his murder was sentenced to four life sentences, making him eligible to receive $3,000 a month. Sadly, since payments are based on the length of individual sentences, convicted terrorists receive more money for acts of terrorism that are even more brutal.
The United States is the largest provider of aid to Palestinians. This aid serves a variety of purposes, including to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, members of Congress have come together on a bipartisan basis in an attempt to use this aid as leverage to deter the PA from providing such payments to terrorists and their families. In each year since 2015, annual appropriations have provided for a 1-to-1 reduction in U.S. aid for every dollar that the PA provides to terrorists. It is clear, however, that this troubling policy continues and that this change alone in current law has not been sufficient to deter the continuation of the PA’s program.
As a result, we strongly urge you to ensure that this issue is raised with President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the White House and to continue using all other means at your disposal to address the PA’s reluctance to abandon this program altogether. As members of Congress, we are committed to the long-standing policy of the United States to see a durable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, resulting in two states; a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security next to a peaceful Palestinian state. So long as the PA continues to compensate and thereby incentivize terrorist activity, we find it difficult to see how the necessary conditions for a lasting peace can be established.
We thank you for your consideration of this important issue and stand ready to assist you in bringing about a sustainable resolution to our concerns.
There are those who will regard the US decision to abstain from the United Nations vote condemning Israeli settlement building as a betrayal. There have been many such resolutions in the UN Security Council and the US had consistently used its veto power to cause them to fail, including every single one during Obama’s eight years in office.
But this was different. And the rage being pointed at Obama is misplaced.
In essence, if you believe in a two-state solution as the only way toward Israel-Palestinian peace which preserves Israel as both democratic and a Jewish state, you would understand why the US took this course. If you believe, as Obama and 99.9% of the international community believes, that the two-state solution is the only viable path to peace for Israel with Palestinians and its Arab neighbors, you would understand why Obama took this extraordinary step.
The way I understand the resolution, it addresses future settlements and does not impose a final status or set borders – which the US would have vetoed. That means that the hysteria (not unlike the hysteria fomented with misinformation over the Iran nuclear agreement), that Jerusalem is “occupied territory” that would be returned, that the land the Hebrew University sits on would have to be returned, is unjustified. And if the resolution went this far, the US would have vetoed it.
But first consider the context:
One may wonder why, with the atrocities being committed by the Syrian Government, Russia and Iran, the United Nations takes up action against Israel, which happens to be a country that is helping to heal Syrian victims in its hospitals, instead of hold a war crimes tribunal of Assad and Putin.
Why now? I believe there were two provocations: the US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers had just delivered a scathing attack on the United Nations for failing to intervene in Syria and stop the vicious assault on civilians, on hospitals, on schools. (I believe Assad and Putin should be charged with war crimes for the atrocities they have committed.)
Second: Donald Trump stated that he would the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a clear provocation – and named as his nominee for Ambassador to Israel , David Friedman, a man who is encouraging settlement building, who opposes the two-state solution, and who has likened liberal American Jews to “kapos” in the Nazi concentration camps.
Recall also that during his reelection campaign, Netanyahu made derogatory statements about Israeli Arabs and said (briefly, until he had to walk it back), that he was no longer interested in pursuing a two-state solution.
Netanyahu actually got on the phone with Donald Trump to get him to push the US to veto the resolution– which along with his extraordinary appearance in front of a joint session of Congress to lobby for the defeat of the Iran nuclear agreement, was an enormous snub to Obama and the US. Trump, delighted to be in the limelight, tweeted his foreign policy: “Things will change after Jan. 20th.”
Consider this context: Israel was actually making headway in tamping down the aggressive stance from its Arab neighbors. Israel , has an important role to play in the counter offensive to radical Islamic fundamentalists generally and ISIS in particular which is a threat to Israel’s Arab “neighborhood.” On a recent “60 Minutes,” Netanyahu was boasting about its biotech industry, its commercial deals with Arab countries.
Now, Netanyahu’s rage – lashing out at Obama and promising retribution against the nations that voted for the resolution – will undo the progress in tamping down hostility to Israel as the Arab world focused more on countering radical jihadism. Because for awhile, Israel was not solely seen in context of Israel-Palestinian conflict, but as a key player on the right side of a global conflict.
The White House got on the phone with journalists to give a fuller explanation beyond the headlines.
“This is consistent with longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy as it relates to settlements, as it relates to our opposition to Israeli settlements, as it relates to our opposition to, and condemnation of, incitement and violence and terrorism, and, above all, about our affirmative support for a two-state solution,” stated Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.
“And one of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity — which has accelerated in recent years, which has accelerated significantly since 2011, when we vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution that condemns settlements — puts at risk the two-state solution, as does any continued incitement to violence. And we’ve been very concerned that these accelerating trends are putting the very viability of a two-state solution at risk. And in that context, we therefore thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution.
“We exhausted every effort to pursue a two-state solution through negotiations, through direct discussions, through proximity discussions, through confidence-building measures, through a lengthy and exhaustive effort undertaken by Secretary Kerry earlier in the President’s second term. We gave every effort that we could to supporting the parties coming to the table.”
Rhodes noted, however, that this resolution – versus countless ones before which the US vetoed – is more “balanced” in that it also condemns incitement, violence and terrorism against Israel, and does not impose final status, which the US would have vetoed.
As for the propaganda that Obama is anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic, these are the facts:
“President Obama has done more for Israel and its security than any previous U.S. President. We just recently signed with Israel the single largest U.S. military assistance package in history — $38 billion over the coming decade. That comes after an administration in which we provided lifesaving assistance for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. We’ve achieved what Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has described as unprecedented security cooperation between our military and intelligence officials. We have repeatedly stood up for Israel in international fora in a variety of different ways, whether it was opposing efforts to address final status issues through the United Nations, or supporting greater Israeli integration into international fora.
“So I believe that despite what has at times been very strident Israeli government criticism of U.S. policies that President Obama has always made Israel and its security sacrosanct in his approach to these issues. In fact, we’ve always said that our pursuit of a two-state solution is guided in part by our belief that that is the only way to preserve and strengthen Israel’s security in the long run, and to achieve the goal that we share with the Israeli people of having a state of Israel that is both Jewish and democratic in nature.
“All of that said, with this criticism it seems like the Israeli government wants the conversation to be about anything other than the settlement activity. And the fact of the matter is, as you heard Samantha say, since 2009, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has increased by more than 100,000 to nearly 400,000…
“So this is not simply a matter of construction within the so-called blocks, within what has long been considered the likely borders of a future — within a future peace agreement. We have acknowledged publicly that there will have to be an acknowledgement of the growth since the 1967 lines were established as a part of any future peace agreement. But in fact, what we’ve seen is much more accelerated settlement construction. And now the total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem exceeds 590,000.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu recently described his own government as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history.’ Those are his words. And we’re concerned about these trends. We were concerned after our election, when one of his leading coalition partners, Naftali Bennett, declared that ‘the era of the two-state solution is over.’
“So, for us, the question here has always been about what is the best way to pursue the security that the Israeli people deserve. And we cannot simply have a two-state solution be a slogan while the trend lines on the ground are such that a two-state solution is becoming less and less viable.
“I would add that we’ve repeatedly condemned incitement to violence by Palestinians. We’ve repeatedly condemned Palestinian terrorism. We have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket fire from Gaza, even when we were one of the only countries in the world that was taking that position. So we’ve been willing time and again to support Israel in international fora, just as we’ve supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, and just as we’ve ensured through our assistance that Israel will maintain its qualitative military edge for the enduring future.
“So, again, President Obama’s track record on Israel’s security is clear. Anybody can review it. But, in fact, I’d take umbrage at language that suggests that this was our preferred course of action and that we initiated it. The fact of the matter is, we’d been warning — President Obama and Secretary Kerry publicly and privately for years — that the trend line of settlement construction and settlement activity was just increasing Israel’s international isolation. This is not a new position for us; we’ve been saying that for many, many, many years. Secretary Kerry, as Frank can attest to, has had hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We’ve made precisely this point.”
Rhodes also explained why the US abstained, versus voted in favor:
“..the United Nations, we continue to believe, is a flawed venue for this issue in that it has frequently been used to single out Israel, often through completely over-the-top exercises, that — again, when it comes to final status issues, we believe that those should be negotiated between the parties.
“We would have vetoed any resolution that we thought sought to impose a solution that sought to impose a view on the final status issue…
“On the narrow question of the resolution that was put in front of us, we saw a resolution that in large part was consistent with U.S. policy…
“We also abstained because while there was balance, as I discussed, in that the resolution addressed and condemned violence and incitement of violence, we thought that that could have been more prominent in the resolution…it was not sufficiently elevating at length the issues that we care very deeply about. We’re pleased that that was included, but again, when you see horrifying knife attacks, when you see continued incitement to violence, you see continued anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic slogans and calls for violence from with the Palestinian Territories, that gravely concerns us. And that’s an enormous obstacle to peace, of course.
“So again, that explains that abstention, those two issues — the U.N. as a future venue for final status issues, given its history, and the emphasis in this resolution being more focused on Israeli activity than some of the concerning activities that are addressed in the resolution with respect to the Palestinians but I think could have been addressed at greater length…..
“Prime Minister Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today. Absent this acceleration of settlement activity, absent the type of rhetoric we’ve seen out of the current Israeli government, I think the United States likely would have taken a different view, because our preference is for there to be a credible peace process underway.
“So, again, it’s very important that this — the fact that this is happening towards the end of our eight years indicates that this is not our preferred course of action and that we’ve given years and years and years of opportunities to address issues related to the settlements or to address issues related to the peace process that, frankly, we believe could have been more productive. And, frankly, President Obama, if you look at speech after speech that he gave, kept warning that the trends in the conflict were going to lead to greater international efforts to apply pressure in Israel; that the settlement activity was going to lead to greater national efforts to apply pressure to Israel.
“There’s a huge record on this, and I think it’s very unfair and inaccurate to suggest that somehow this was an outcome that we sought. If it was an outcome that we sought, we would have done this long ago. But the fact is, we were compelled to because of the choices that have been made over years by the Israeli government in building settlements and not taking different opportunities that were presented for a credible peace process.
“I should add that the Palestinians also failed to take opportunities. As Frank and Rob know well, Secretary Kerry’s effort did not move forward because of the decisions by both Israelis and Palestinians. So I just want to be very clear here that the Palestinians have missed plenty of opportunities under this administration as well….
“We’ve tried everything. We’ve tried proximity talks, we’ve tried direct talks, we’ve tried the Secretary of State who dove into this and made it an enormous priority for a long period of time. We’ve tried to step back. And the one consistent outcome was that it didn’t work. We can go back and look at what we did differently, but at the end of the day, precisely because we believe this can only be resolved in negotiations, it’s up to the parties to show that they’re serious about those negotiations and that talking about a peace process isn’t just a phrase — it’s an actual, meaningful, diplomatic effort to try to achieve a resolution.
“….We hear the words about a two-state solution, and then we see the actions that are making a two-state solution far less likely, if not out of reach. And at a certain point, the words and the actions become irreconcilable. And that’s what we’re concerned about. And we believe that that would be not in the best interest of Israel. And precisely because President Obama cares so deeply about Israel and its security, he would like to see a return to a meaningful effort to pursue peace.”
Of all the US presidents, Obama has shown the greatest empathy and respect for Israel and American Jews.
During one of the Hanukkah celebrations at the White House (which he has conducted every year), Obama said, “We recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: How a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.”