TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump’s dressing down of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over his lies about incitement has finally brought the issue to light, a top American Jewish leader told the Algemeiner this week.
Executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP) Malcolm Hoenlein slammed Abbas for being “directly involved in incitement.”
“Trump’s remonstrations with Abbas over his lies on incitement I think were very important to this issue finally being recognized,” Hoenlein said.
“Abbas had not been held to account in the past and it had to be done,” he added. “Hopefully it will be sustained pressure with real consequences for continued violations.”
He praised Trump for “reaffirm[ing] the U.S.-Israel relationship and personaliz[ing] it” during his “very positive” visit to Israel last month.
Hoenlein, who was present when Trump visited the Western Wall, said the visit was “solemn.”
“I think the historic significance was largely… he put on a yarmulke, went to the Kotel and prayed, and he declared it, certainly by his actions and his words, that it is a Jewish site,” he said.
He also said that the fact that Trump didn’t force a trilateral meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas shows that “he is realistic about the prospects for a negotiated settlement at this moment. It’s very complicated, it’s not simply bringing leaders together, especially when one side has negated every opportunity. Hopefully, we may see other approaches — like interim steps and agreements and a regional approach to support the parties.”
“I do think there are prospects now that are being looked at and we’ll see,” Hoenlein continued. “But any talks must be held directly between Netanyahu and Abbas, and should be encouraged, but not forced, otherwise they will not work.”
He said he hopes Trump will find the “right way” to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem without overturning the Arab world.
Hoenlein also said his organization supported the Taylor Force Act — legislation that would cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority so long as it continues to provide financial support to the families of perpetrators of attacks against Israelis and Israeli-Americans.
The CoP head also praised Trump for improving Israel’s stance at the UN, especially with the appointment of Nikki Haley as his envoy at the global body.
“The tone and the messages have been much stronger,” Hoenlein said. “We do still see bias against Israel at the UN, but I think it is being addressed more seriously, led by the U.S.”
“There are a number of UN reports related to Israel that are due to come out now that are not based on non-biased assessments and we are still seeing the spewing of bile against Israel,” he went on to say. “Unfortunately, the anti-Israel coalition still exists, but there is progress. Hopefully, many of those who profess support will manifest it in their votes at the UN.”
He added that Israel’s standing in other parts of the world is also strengthening. “While some people are working to isolate Israel, there are many countries — including India and China — which are expanding their relations with Israel dramatically,” he said.
Hoenlein also said he was skeptical that employees of the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees were entirely unaware that Hamas had dug a terror tunnel under two of its schools in the Gaza Strip.
“Even though they have issued statements condemning it, it’s hard to believe that UNRWA employees had no idea about it,” Hoenlein said. “UNRWA has lost its reason for existence, it should be folded into existing agencies. The perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue for three generations is not justifiable.”
He slammed Iran’s continued violations of human rights and its aspirations towards regional hegemony.
“President Trump made some strong statements that I think put Iran on notice,” Hoenlein stated. “The recent election in Iran should not be misread. It was not a question of a moderate winning. [Hassan] Rouhani is just a degree less radical. Executions, human rights violations, expansion of Iran’s ballistic missile program and perhaps its nuclear program, all have continued to increase under Rouhani. He may just dress up the policies better than [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and others did. And it’s still the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] who rules ultimately.”
“There are things we could do, that have not been done, to challenge the Iranian government and give support to the elements in that country who want to bring real change,” Hoenlein continued. “Iran is moving to control Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It wants to build a road straight across to the Mediterranean Sea through these countries, which would give it a supply route to the whole area and bring it close to the border with Israel. They want to sustain the military bases they built in Syria and the ability to control the ‘Shiite Crescent’ that [Jordanian] King Abdullah warned about. There is so much going on and Iran is moving ahead aggressively on various fronts.”
Hoenlein also said that it was of vital importance not to turn a blind eye to the recent arrests of two Hezbollah members in the U.S.
“Attention must be paid to this,” he told the Algemeiner. “Many Americans think Hezbollah is someone else’s problem, but you see they are active here. There are many cases in the U.S. that hardly get noticed. People should remember they are active everywhere.”