The ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama has shown improvement in his policies toward Israel, especially in regard to Iran.
But he warns that Israel is sending an urgent message that strong action must be taken against Iran’s nuclear program to forestall an Israeli attack. Foxman heads one of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations, with a special focus on anti-Semitism.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Foxman says Obama’s grade on Israel has gone from an “F” two years ago to a solid “B” today because he has “learned from his mistakes.”
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Foxman specifically praised Obama for standing with Israel in his speech to the U.N. in September and for sharing “bunker-busting” bombs with the Jewish state.
With speculation growing about an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Foxman was asked whetherf Israel should hold off on such a strike to give economic sanctions against the Islamic republic time to work.
“If there is not to be military action to stop the nuclear arming of Iran, there needs to be serious, serious, heavy sanctions,” he says. “There has been more talk about sanctions than actual implementation.
“I think the talk about an imminent Israeli attack is a message to the world that if you want to be serious about Iran, then act quickly, act seriously. That will prevent the need for possible military action.”
Foxman says he believes Obama is serious when he vows that the United States will work closely with Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“One needs to look at two levels of this administration’s approach to Israel,” Foxman says. “Politically there have been some issues, but in recent months and I’d say in the last year and a half, two years, the military relationship has been very close, the intelligence relationship has been very close.
“Iran is not only a threat to Israel. This is a country that says it will wipe Israel off the map. But Iran poses a threat to the free world, to Europe, to the United States.
“So I believe the president when he says they are working closely with Israel. We’ve seen more sharing between the United States and Israel on the issue of Iran than we’ve seen in many years.”
The head of the Iranian parliament’s research institute recently called for a preemptive missile strike on Israel before the end of the year to forestall an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Asked whether that threat concerns him, Foxman responds: “I think any threat from a country that is irrational and has the ability to arm as they have, which has not changed its tone, its rhetoric, I think we need to take seriously.
“I think too frequently democracies and the West ignore the rhetoric of dictatorships. I think we must take their word seriously.”
In a Newsmax interview two years ago, Foxman gave Obama an “F” grade for his dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict and Iran. Asked whether he still gives Obama a failing grade, Fox says: “No, I think he has improved. He has learned from some of the mistakes.
“I think the speech he gave at the United Nations puts him back in my mind to a B. He still hasn’t achieved [an A] but he has a better understanding of what is possible and what is not possible.”
In that speech in September, Obama urged a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, stressed support for an independent Palestinian state, and spoke against any United Nations bid to declare Palestine a state on its own.
Foxman says that, after the address, “I called one of the White House officials and I said this is a wonderful speech. Had the president given that speech in Cairo three years ago, we may have had a two-state solution.
“But there is an understanding. I think the fact that the United States is now supplying Israel with bunker-busters, that aid is being given in terms of defense missiles, I think shows an understanding that they were wrong.
Foxman addressed other issues in his Newsmax interview:
The Arab Spring:
“It’s interesting that there was a meeting between the Jewish community and King Abdullah of Jordan, and one of the things he was concerned about was the speed with which the United States was cozying up to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It is a dilemma, but I don’t think we should rush to legitimize them, to open up relations.”
The Arab uprising “changes the neighborhood,” Foxman says. “The neighborhood was never good. Now it’s a little worse.
“There was never a warm peace, but at least there was a peace. Now it is not clear. The Muslim brotherhood leadership has spoken out of three sides of their mouth, saying they will abide by the [Israeli-Egyptian peace] treaty, others saying they will not.
“We’re seeing the gas lines supplying gas to Israel and Jordan have now been blown up 12 times. Until the Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood, the military decide to protect Sinai against al-Qaida, against terrorism, then I’m not sure that peace will last.”
Turkey and Israel:
“Turkey’s relationship with Israel has gone from the example of a Muslim country being able to relate to both sides to one where I believe [Prime Minister Recep] Erdogan is playing a role to become a leader of the Muslim world.
“That has already undermined the Turkish-Israeli relationship. It may undermine the NATO relationship. If Turkey continues to build its relationshipwith Iran, how can the United States share its codes, its secrets with a NATO ally when there is a possibility it may be handed over to our enemies?”
Anti-Semitism in the United States:
After the 2008 financial crisis, the ADL noted an increase in crimes against Jews. Foxman was asked whether anti-Semitic incidents are increasing.
“They are. When you measure hate crimes in this country, when it comes to religion, Jews and Jewish institutions are still the number one targets. For every time there is an Islamophobic attack, there are 10 attacks on Jewish institutions.
“Unfortunately anti-Semitism still exists. We’re not immune.It’s better here than anywhere else in the world, but it still needs antidotes — education, education, education.”
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