Trump Holds Brief, One-sided Call With Jewish Leaders Ahead of High Holy Days

While the holy day phone calls would usually last half an hour with president Obama, Friday's conversation with Jewish leaders only lasted 8 minutes, and this time featured no questions from participants

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to members of the press pool at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2017.
CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

President Donald Trump spoke on Friday to American Jewish leaders to greet them ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days later this month. Trump used the occasion to express his strong support for Israel, and promised to fight back against attempts to hurt Israel at the United Nations. He also expressed his hope to see progress on the Israeli Palestinian peace process during the coming year.

The call with the Jewish leaders lasted just under nine minutes, and was without a single question from the call's participants.

The tradition of holding a call with Jewish leaders and rabbis before the High Holy Days started during the Obama presidency. Three sources who took part in those calls during the Obama years told Haaretz that they would usually last around 30 minutes or more, in some occasions even reaching 45 minutes, and that there were always questions - usually one from a Rabbi of each major denomination (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox). The questions would include those that expressed criticism of administration policies, they said.

This year's call began with brief remarks by Jared Kushner, the president's Jewish son-in-law and senior adviser, who said that this is the most important time of year for the Jewish people, and added that Trump is proud to hold the call. The decision to continue the Obama-years' tradition came despite the fact that the rabbinical leaderships of the Reform and Conservative movements announced that they will not facilitate a call with Trump in protest of his remarks on the violent events last month in Charlottesville. 

Trump told the participants that under his leadership, "the United States will always support Israel.  Not just because of security, but because of shared values." He added that, "On a personal level, and I just returned from Israel not too long ago, I can tell you that I love Israel."

Trump promised that his administration will focus on changing the United Nation's treatment of Israel and on trying to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. "That is why my administration has focused the UN on stopping to single-out Israel." He said.

"I'm very hopeful that it could happen by the end of the year," he stated, referring to a peace deal. "Ambassador David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Jared Kushner are working hard at it, and I'm hopeful.

"We forcefully condemn those who seek to promote anti-Semitism," the president told the participants of the call. "I will make sure we protect Jewish communities, and all communities, to make sure they are safe."