Israeli Consul General to New England: Trump Still a Friend to Israel

The President-Elect has drawn criticism for appointing Breitbart's Steve Bannon.

Even as Jewish leaders in America condemn Donald Trump’s appointment of Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon, Israel’s Consul General to New England, Yehuda Yaakov, says the President-Elect and those surrounding him remain friends of Israel.

“The Prime Minister’s had a conversation with President-Elect Trump, and following that conversation, he emphasized that the President-Elect expressed a very deep friendship for Israel, which has characterized both him and the team around him for years,” Yaakov said in a phone interview Monday.

When asked if he was worried by either Bannon’s appointment to a senior adviser and strategist role in Trump’s White House team, or the antisemitic website he helped build into the nexus of the so-called “alt-right” movement it is today, Yaakov deferred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on the subject.

“We aren’t a part of the domestic debate. President-Elect Trump has shown his friendship for Israel over time—both him, and the people around him,” Yaakov added.

In the wake of Trump’s upset over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton last week, Netanyahu called on government officials to refrain from commenting on the prospect of his presidency. Netanyahu was one of the first foreign leaders Trump called after winning the contentious election last week.

“President-elect Trump is a true friend of the State of Israel and I look forward to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region,” Netanyahu said in a statement. On Facebook, the Prime Minister said that Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu also shared a “heartfelt and warm” phone conversation.

“[They] discussed the great challenge of raising children under the spotlight that accompanies their fathers who were elected as world leaders. Additionally, they discussed the great importance of emphasizing family time as part of their role as mothers in order to enable their children to grow up in a normal way like all their friends,” Netanyahu said.

Jewish organizations in America, from the Anti-Defamation League to the National Jewish Democratic Committee, have rebuked Trump’s appointment of Bannon, whose ex-wife said in sworn affidavits that he didn’t want his twin daughters attending an elite Los Angeles private school with “whiny brat” Jews. Bannon has denied this.

“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,’” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was reportedly “privately apoplectic” at Bannon’s appointment, but refused to make a statement as a matter of policy.

“We have a very good relationship with our friends in the wider community,” Yaakov said. “They’re going to express whatever opinion they’re going to express, and we’re going to have to leave it at that. It’s certainly not my place to comment.”