MR. KUSHNER: Thank you very much. I want to welcome everybody.
And thank you for joining us today to celebrate the High Holidays. And it’s my
honor to introduce in a few minutes the President.
As we enter the final days of the month of Elul on the Jewish
calendar, the Jewish tradition calls for the month leading into Rosh Hashanah to
be one of introspection and reflection. Over the past year, we have accomplished
a lot, and President Trump has proven himself to be a tremendous advocate for
all American citizens, but particularly for the Jewish people.
It is my great honor to introduce the 45th President of the
United States, Donald J. Trump.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. And thank you for joining this
call. It’s a great honor.
To many rabbis, the Jewish leaders, and friends who are on the
line, I am delighted to wish you Shana Tova, a sweet new year. And you’ll have
many others. We really enjoy being with you. It’s something I enjoy each year.
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.
I send my warmest wishes to the Jewish people in the United
States and around the world as we approach the High Holy Days.
The Jewish practice of reflection, atonement, and remembrance
during this holy period not only strengthens Jewish communities, but inspires
This afternoon, I want to express my deep admiration and
gratitude for the extraordinary contributions of the Jewish people to the United
States and to the world.
Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable
persecution, yet you have not only endured, you have thrived and flourished as
an example of humankind.
My connection to Judaism is also personal. I am the very proud
father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of
also — I will say that very loudly — Jared, and my several Jewish
grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchildren that I love.
As we hear the sound of Shofars call this year, we have much to
celebrate as a nation. Opportunities for all Americans are soaring. Record
numbers of Americans are working; the highest number of people working in the
United States is literally today. We have never had more people working, and we
have never had better unemployment numbers. We’re setting records for
unemployment — the lowest unemployment we’ve ever had in almost every
category. And it’s a great honor to see that, and the people of our country
greatly appreciate it.
Last year, I kept my promise to recognize Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel, as we have since moved our embassy to Tel Aviv to its
rightful home in the Holy City. In a moment, Ambassador Friedman will provide an
update on our progress, but it’s something that I’m very, very proud of.
Other Presidents have promised it. Actually, I should say, to be more accurate,
many other Presidents have promised it and all have failed to secure their
In June, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Haley announced that the
United States would withdraw from the anti-Israel United Nations Human Rights
Council. We have already acknowledged that and will continue to defend
Israel’s sovereign rights in all international forums.
Ambassador Friedman, Jason, Jared, and others are working hard to
reach a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. All my life
I’ve heard that’s the hardest deal to make, and I’m starting to believe
that maybe it is. But I will say that if it can be delivered, we will deliver
it. Jason will actually be talking about that shortly. And we have made
progress, believe it or not.
Finally, a few weeks ago, my administration was proud to remove
the last known Nazi criminal from the United States. I understand that
Assemblyman Hikind, who has been very kind to me, and very nice — I know
he’s a very strong Democrat but he was extremely nice when he did an interview
in particular, as to what we did. But we worked tirelessly and we helped to make
it possible. I know he and many others have been working on it for decades.
We’re also deeply honored to be joined by several Holocaust
survivors. It is a true privilege to be graced by your presence. And it marks
the 5,779th in the Jewish calendar, so we renew our pledge to confront
anti-Semitism and hatred in all of its forms.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions
to our communities and to our nation. Melania and I wish everyone a sweet and
peaceful New Year. And it’s really been a great honor.
I will now take a moment to ask Ambassador Friedman to say a few
words. He’s done a fantastic job as your ambassador. And, David, please say a
AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a great
honor to be on this call. Sorry, can everyone hear me?
THE PRESIDENT: I can. Yes.
AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: Okay, good. All right, well, again, thank
you very much, Mr. President. It’s a great honor to be on this call with you.
And thank you for your kind words to the Jewish community.
As everyone knows, we opened the embassy on May 14th of this past
year at exactly 4:00 p.m. It was not just the date, but actually even the time
that David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence 70 years ago.
We opened the embassy, as President Trump likes to say, well
ahead of time and well under budget. As he has said many times, hundreds of
millions of dollars under budget. But we have a beautiful campus. We have
continuously operated our embassy since May 14th. We have about 150 people
working there already. We’re beginning phase two of the construction period,
which is beginning in a week or two. And we will roughly double the size by June
of 2019. After that, we’ll consider what final steps to make to complete the
We are looking for a site, and we have — we think we have that
site located for the Ambassador’s Residence — something near and dear to my
heart. And we’ll have further announcements on that.
But I would tell you that the embassy in Jerusalem has become a
major tourist site in Israel. People — I’m there almost every day, and
people just pull up their cars to the front of the embassy, they get out, they
take pictures. I’ve seen some people praying there. I’ve actually seen many
people crying there.
Many Cabinet members have come to visit. Many members of Congress
have come to visit. I urge all of you to please come to visit. I’d love to see
you all there. It’s a very special place. It’s a beautiful embassy that
we’re proud of it.
We’re there, of course, because of the extraordinarily
courageous decision of the President to move our embassy there. As he has said,
it’s something that has been a mandate from Congress for more than 25 years.
It’s been the will of the American people for longer than that. It’s been
tried and failed by so many predecessors.
And so I want to thank the President publicly, as I’ve done
before, for this incredibly important and courageous decision. And to all those
on the call, I’d like to say to you: [Speaks in Hebrew]. Happy [speaks in
Hebrew]. May all of you be inscribed in the book of life and have a successful,
peaceful, and joyous New Year. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, David. And I believe Alan
Dershowitz — a terrific gentleman and a great lawyer — is going to be asking
me a couple of questions. And, Alan, do you want to start? Go ahead.
MR. DERSHOWITZ: Sure. Thank you, Mr. President. It’s an honor
to be asking you a question. I want to thank you for doing what previous
Presidents promised to do, and that is recognizing the reality that Jerusalem is
the eternal capital of Israel and moving the embassy there. I was honored to be
at the opening.
I also want to congratulate you for correctly predicting that
this move, which takes contentious issues off the table, would not be strongly
opposed by Sunni Arab nations. But the Palestinian Authority has used it as yet
another excuse to refuse to negotiate with Israel.
So, Mr. President, should the Jewish community be optimistic that
you can help bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict that we all pray
for all the time?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Alan. I think the answer to that is a
very strong yes — you should be. It is, as I said before, really considered to
be one of the toughest deals to make of any kind. I don’t kind what kind of a
deal you’re talking about. If you look at Israel and the Palestinians, it’s
always top of everybody’s list in terms of levels of difficulty.
But we’re going to be able to get it done. We did something
that I now understand why so many Presidents before me didn’t do. They would
campaign and they were always going to talk. They were always talking about
Jerusalem and the embassy, and it was all very beautiful and everybody was
happy. And then they never did it.
I can tell you — and I don’t say it often, but I should say
it to this very special group of people — and you’re very special, Alan: The
fact that people heard that I was going to do it about two weeks out, I have
never received so many phone calls from foreign leaders as I did, asking me not
to do it. And it was one after another, “Please don’t do it. Please don’t
do it.” And some were very strong on it. Really — “We really implore you,
Mr. President. Please do not do it. It will be…” You know, I don’t want to
go into great detail, but some said it would be massive, massive problems. It
would be weeks in hell.
And I said, “You know what? Thank you very much.” And then it
got to a point where about three or four days out, Alan, I wouldn’t take phone
calls. I’d say, “Let me tell them I’ll call them back after Monday. I’ll
call them back after I do the announcement.” So — which is what I did. And
then they, sort of, lost a lot of enthusiasm, because the announcement was made.
A good way to do it.
But the fact is that I took something off the table. If you go
back and look at your negotiations with the Palestinians over the years, the
first thing was Jerusalem and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, thereby making it
And I will tell you, we’ve taken that off the table. You never
got by. If you look at the negotiations, nobody got by that first point. You
never got it. That’s why the negotiations would normally end very quickly.
Because the first question was that — and you couldn’t get by. So I’ve
taken it off the table.
Now, does that mean Israel is going to do something that will
[inaudible] for the Palestinians? Yes.
What is it going to be? I can’t tell you. But I can tell you
that by doing what I did, Alan, we took the biggest bone of contention, a point
that nobody ever got beyond for the second dilemma — for the second problem
— they never got beyond it. We took it off the table. And I think it’s
actually going to help a lot in making a deal, as we say, with the Palestinians.
Now, most people think just the opposite. They said, “Oh, you
did a mistake.” Well, I disagree. I disagree. So I think that we have a very
good chance of doing it.
And the other thing I did, Alan, I will tell you, is I stopped
massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the
Palestinian leaders. We were — the United States was paying them tremendous
amounts of money. And I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you
until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying. And
that’s going to have a little impact.
I said, “By the way, did you ever do that before?” I said to
some of the past negotiators. “Did you ever do that before? Did you ever use
the money angle?” They said, “No, sir. We thought it would be
disrespectful.” I said, “I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. I
think it’s disrespectful when people don’t come to the table.”
So we’re doing that. And I really do believe we’re going to
make a deal, Alan. I hope so. It would be a great thing to do.
MR. DERSHOWITZ: Thank you so much, Mr. President. We all
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Alan.
MR. DERSHOWITZ: We all are there to help you if we can do
anything. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Alan. You’ve been
fantastic. Norm Coleman is here. And he’s a man that’s highly respected by a
lot of people.
Norm, are you there?
NORM COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, in the
spirit of introspection and reflection that we as Jews are called upon to do
this time of year, and on behalf of over 50,000 members of the Republican Jewish
Coalition that I chair, please allow me to thank you for the courage and wisdom
you’ve demonstrated, and the promises made and promises kept this year that
have really strengthened the U.S.-Israel relationship.
And I’m just going to mention in three areas. And, by the way,
this all follows the disastrous policies of your predecessor. And we talked
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that.
MR. COLEMAN — in face of global opposition, Mr. President, you
moved the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital. I was there in May of 2000 [sic],
last year, when you were the first sitting President, last May, to pray at the
Western Wall, and then delivered a powerful speech side by side with Prime
Again, in face of global opposition, you cancelled an Iran deal
that had guaranteed Iran a path to a nuclear weapon. You re-imposed sanctions in
an Iranian regime that has been at the core of destabilizing the Gulf region
through its nefarious activities in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza.
Two other areas, briefly, Mr. President. Thank you for — and,
by the way, and those of us who grew up in the ’60s would say, having the
courage and wisdom to speak truth to power by calling out the U.N.’s ongoing
anti-Israel bias. You withdrew us from the Human Rights Council. You withdrew
funding from UNRWA, with his anti-Semitic, anti-Israel agenda. And finally, Mr.
President, let me thank you for the people you’ve surrounded yourself with.
We’ve heard Jared, we’ve heard Ambassador Friedman. These folks, on a daily
basis, are strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.
And Jason Greenblatt needs to be mentioned. John Bolton needs to
be mentioned. A team you have at the State Department with a new sheriff in town
at the U.N., Nikki Haley, with Secretary of State Pompeo. They demonstrate daily
that we have Israel’s back and that Israel’s security is central to U.S.
security. And so, Mr. President, I thank you for the A team. Thank you for all
And now my question, Mr. President. And it is: Where do we go
from here with Iran? What more can we do to neutralize Iran’s ongoing efforts
to destabilize the Gulf region and continually threaten Israel’s existence?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Norm. And I do have a
good team. And, you know, I think probably — not probably; without question
— and David can say this better than anybody — that if somebody else were
President, you wouldn’t have the embassy built for 20 years. It may never get
built and it would have cost billions of dollars.
And people are talking about how great the site is. I know that
when I originally did it, they were all out looking for land. And David and I
said, “What do we have to get new land for? We have the best site already.”
People are saying it’s like the best site; we already own it. So we’ve ended
a renovation and it took — we saved about a billion dollars, let’s put it
that way. And you’ll add on, and you’ll make it more and more beautiful with
time, but you have the best site and you have a great facility already. And we
did it in four months instead of 25 years. So that wasn’t so bad.
Iran was something that I was against the deal from the first day
I heard about it. I thought it was a horror show. It should never have happened.
It was Obama — President Obama. But the Congress was certainly complicit
because they could have stopped it. It got done. They actually became worse;
they became more hostile. You would’ve thought — I always said, “They
should thank us profusely for what we did.”
We gave them $150 billion. Even crazier sounding to me is that we
gave them $1.8 billion in cash. If anybody knows what $1.8 billion in cash looks
like, I’m still trying to figure it out. They took the money out of banks from
three major states and they didn’t have enough, so they ended using banks from
other countries to get them the money. It was the craziest deal.
And, I said, if I get in, I’m going to consider, after studying
it, terminating the deal. I had a Secretary of State that didn’t like
terminating it. I played the game for a while; I wish I did it sooner. But I
played that little game for a while, and then ultimately I decided I’m just
doing it. And I did it.
And it’s had a tremendously positive impact on, I think really,
world security — because Iran is no longer the same country. From the day I
did it, they’ve lost their mojo. And I will tell you that if you look at Iran
now, when I — if you go a day before I took over — I don’t want to say the
same day — the day before I took over as President, Iran — it was not a
question of how big and how strong they were; it was a question of when will
they take over the entire Middle East. And that probably includes Israel, in the
mind of a lot of people.
And if you look at them today, they’re not looking at the
Mediterranean any longer. They’re not looking at places that they were going
to routinely take over. And I think Israel feels a lot safer than they’ve felt
in many, many years.
Iran is fighting for their own survival. They’ve got
demonstrations in every city. This is far worse than it was years ago when
President Obama could’ve maybe crushed Iran if all they needed was a positive
statement — the people that were demonstrating. Well, these demonstrations are
larger, but they’re more widespread. They’re all over the country.
So Iran is no longer the same country. I would imagine that
they’ll be calling in the not-too-distant future to try and make a deal. If we
can make a real deal, we’ll do it. If they don’t call, that’s okay too.
Eventually, they’re going to have no choice. But we’ll see what happens.
I can only say from the standpoint of Israel, what I did was a
great thing for Israel. And what I did was also a very good thing for world
peace, because everywhere we went — especially in the Middle East — where
there was a problem, Iran stood behind that problem.
So I cancelled the deal. I terminated the deal, like I said I
would during the campaign. It turned out to have a much bigger impact than I
thought. I did it primarily because of nuclear, but I knew it wouldn’t be
great for their economy. I had no idea how devastating it would be.
As you know also, now the Europeans are finally leaving.
They’re finally saying, “All right, look, this is just not working.” You
know, they tried to play hardball for a little while but they’re now leaving
and they’re doing the right thing. And the relationships I have with them are
But it’s had a huge impact, Norm, on the country. And they are
now really looking to survive and to — I can’t use the word “prosper”
because that’s not the right word — but they are certainly looking to
survive. And we’ll see what happens down the road. But that is not the same
country that was in existence when I took over as President of the United
Thank you, Norm.
MR. COLEMAN: And, Mr. President, we thank you for your courage
and wisdom and the impact — positive effects it’s had on the U.S.-Israel
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Norm, very much. Thank you.
MR. KUSHNER: Thank you everybody for taking the time to do this.
Best wishes to all of you for Shana Tovah, and happy and healthy New Year. And
we look forward to seeing a lot of you soon. All the best.