Toning down rhetoric, GOP contender also vows to work with Israel, but draws criticism from Jewish groups over test for would-be immigrants

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Youngstown, Ohio, Monday, August 15, 2016. (AP/Gerald Herbert)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Youngstown, Ohio, Monday, August 15, 2016. (AP/Gerald Herbert)


WASHINGTON — Donald Trump said he would test would-be immigrants for anti-Semitic beliefs and that Israel would be a key ally in defeating radical Islam, unveiling a proposal for radically stepped up vetting measures for potential immigrants in a policy address Monday.

Speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, the Republican presidential nominee outlined national security policies that included what he called “extreme vetting” for would-be immigrants, including for those who would reject what he described as American values of tolerance.

“We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” Trump ventured, promising to temporarily suspend immigration from “the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world” that export terrorism.

“In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it extreme vetting.”

He claimed that the perpetrators of a series of attacks in the United States — including the September 11, 2001, hijackings, the 2013 Boston bombings and the recent mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub — involved “immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

Trump also cited the French experience with Islam as an example for why he wanted to implement the policy.

“Beyond terrorism, as we have seen in France, foreign populations have brought their anti-Semitic attitudes with them,” he said.

It’s not clear which “foreign populations” he was referring to, although from the broader context of his comments, targeting “radical Islam,” it appears he was speaking of Muslims from North Africa.

Anti-Semitism existed and at times thrived in France for centuries before its recent waves of immigrants, although recent high-profile attacks on Jews have been carried out by French Muslim extremists.

Trump also said Israel would be key in an alliance to face down the spread of radical Islam.

“As president, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal,” he said. “We will work side by side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel.”

He said his administration would “aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS”, another name for IS, and be a “friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East.”

Much of Trump’s targeting of would-be immigrants focused on attributes he has associated with Islam.

“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” he said, referring to the Muslim religious canon.

The Anti-Defamation League immediately took to Twitter to express concerns about Trump’s reiterated call to ban Muslim entry and entry from countries subject to violence.

“Refugees from Syria, Iraq, etc. are fleeing the same terror we fear,” the ADL said. “Suspending immigration would only trap those who need refuge most.”

Also speaking out was HIAS, the lead Jewish group advocating for immigrants and refugees.

“For the American Jewish community, the thought of barring a refugee family because of their religion or home country is simply unpalatable,” Melanie Nezer, the group’s vice president, said in a statement.

Trump’s foreign policy address marked the latest attempt by the Trump campaign to get their maverick candidate back on message as his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton surges ahead in the polls.

“We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism just as we have defeated every threat we faced at every age,” he said.

Watering down his highly contested assertion that Barack Obama and Clinton created the so-called Islamic State extremist group, Trump said IS was “the direct result of policy decisions” made by the president and former secretary of state, referencing chaos in Iraq and Libya.

Yet Trump also decried what he described as a decline in American security under Obama and Clinton, who was secretary of state in Obama’s first term, including the nuclear rollback for sanctions relief deal with Iran.

“The nuclear deal puts Iran, the No. 1 state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons,” he said. “In short, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS, destabilized the Middle East and put the nation of Iran – which chants
‘Death to America’ – in a dominant position.”

Biden: Nasrallah parroting Trump

In an almost simultaneous appearance with Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Vice President Joe Biden also invoked Israel in attacking Trump’s national security policies.

Biden noted Trump’s claim last week that Obama had founded ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist group. Trump doubled down on the claim for days before claiming he was being sarcastic.

“The leader of Hezbollah, a direct threat to our ally Israel, repeated that claim,” Biden said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden hold hands in the air during a campaign rally, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden hold hands in the air during a campaign rally, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)


In his speech, Trump also vowed to work “very closely” with NATO, sidestepping previous criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after saying that a Trump presidency would not automatically leap to members’ defense.

“I have previously said NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism. Since my comments, they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats, very good,” he said.

Trump said he believed the United States could find “common ground with Russia” in the fight against IS — a claim bound to do little to silence critics who accuse him of being soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As reported by The Times of Israel