In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu dismissed concerns about perceived anti-Semitism surrounding the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump.
“I know him very well,” Netanyahu said of Trump in an interview with Lesley Stahl. “And I think his attitude, his support for Israel is very clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There’s no question about that.”
Critics of Trump’s campaign argue that it gave a platform to bigots, white supremacists and anti-Semites who were invigorated by Trump’s populist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump also received the backing of fringe figures, such as former KKK leader David Duke, and did little to genuinely distance himself from the white nationalists cheering his rise.
Stahl pressed the right-wing Israeli leader for his thoughts on a coterie of Trump’s advisers, including Steve Bannon, ideologue of the so-called alt-right and former head of the far-right Breitbart News website who is tapped for a senior position in the White House. Netanyahu said he didn’t know Bannon, but he wasn’t worried.
“I think that Mr. Trump and his associates are going to be very strong, not merely in support for the Jewish state, but also in support for the Jewish people,” he repeated. Netanyahu also spoke of his well-known “difference of opinion” with President Obama and expressed hope that Trump would help undo the nuclear deal with Iran.
Last month, the Anti-Defamation League issued a stern rebuke of Bannon’s mooted appointment.
“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house,'” the American organization, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, said.
Under Bannon’s stewardship, claimed the ADL, Breitbart “published inflammatory pieces about women, Muslims and other groups.” The website, claimed the ADL, “has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.” It’s likely that Trump’s pre-election rhetoric about “globalist” cabals undermining the nation — a classic trope of anti-Semitism — was influenced by Bannon.
Netanyahu explained that whatever the allegations surrounding Trump’s team, he was confident that Trump himself would set the tone and that the president-elect, who has Jewish grandchildren, was in no way anti-Jewish.
“We say that the boss ultimately decides the policy,” Netanyahu said. “The spirit of the commander permeates the troops. That’s our motto in the Israel Defense Forces, and that’s I’m sure true of the U.S. presidency, as well.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Ishaan Tharoor