Ryan in Jerusalem

Times of Israel editor David Horovitz sat down with Paul Ryan on Sunday evening in Jerusalem for an interview (at the David Citadel Hotel, I think). David introduces the interview this way:

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, and the Republican Who Didn’t Run for the Presidency this time — broadly holds to the principle of not being too critical of the US government when traveling abroad. But his very decision to come to Israel on Sunday and Monday — on the first days, that is, of his first foreign trip since taking the Speaker’s job last October — is an implied rebuke to President Barack Obama, and an overt reassertion of American solidarity with Israel.

Talking to The Times of Israel from the balcony of his Jerusalem hotel room, Ryan’s first order of business is to make clear that he very deliberately chose to visit Israel now so as “to reinforce our alliance” and to underline his conviction that the US-Israel partnership should and will grow stronger in the future.

The 46-year-old father of three from Wisconsin, who was last in Israel late in Ariel Sharon’s prime ministership in 2005, emphatically endorses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s view that Palestinian terrorism directed against Israel is ultimately no different from the Islamic terror afflicting Europe and threatening the United States, and that the civilized world must unite to fight it. “They’re coming at Israel but they’re ultimately coming for us,” he says. “So we are partners in this war on terror, radical Islamic terrorism. Israel is an indispensable ally in that. Israel is on the front line in so many ways with respect to it.”

Rather than wishing the Islamist extremism away, or seeking desperately to avoid calling it by its name, Ryan sets out an agenda for confronting it — not only militarily, when it rears its violent head, but at the grassroots level, where the brainwashing and indoctrination are taking place. “We need a generational strategy about winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world,” he argues, and specifies the imperative to form “a coalition of governments in moderate nations” to prevent the creation of the next generations of killers. “We don’t have a current strategy to deal with ISIS right now,” he laments, “let alone how do we prevent the five-year-old in Pakistan from becoming a radical.”

He endorses the goal of a two-state solution but believes that Israel doesn’t have a Palestinian partner at present, so “I don’t know how much progress can be made.”

He is adamant that it is not for the United States, or for any other outside player, however well-intentioned, to try to coerce Israel into taking steps along the path to an accommodation. “I’d leave it up to your government,” he says, when asked about the Obama Administration’s encouragement of Israeli territorial compromise. “We shouldn’t try to force Israel into an insecure position.”

As a prominent opponent of the President Barack Obama-led nuclear deal with Iran, furthermore, he remains adamant that it was a dreadful agreement, intent on holding Iran to its (albeit inadequate) terms, determined to resist any further concessions, and convinced that the regime in Iran will expose the foolishness of those who supported it. “I think the ballistic tests (were an early indication). I think what Iran is going to end up doing is going to make people rue the day they voted for that deal,” he says bitterly. “As we move forward in the future, I think people who supported the deal are going to regret that support.”

And encouragingly for Netanyahu, he also takes the view that the prime minister’s lobbying against the deal, and essentially against Obama, in Congress in March 2015, has not alienated parts of the American political spectrum in the long-term, or turned Israel into more of a partisan issue in the United States. “I’m not a Democrat,” he confirms helpfully, but he says he believes the intensity of that battle was a passing “moment.” Overall, he advises, “I would not as an Israeli be worried about the future of our relationship. I think it’s going to strengthen.” The alliance with Congress is extremely warm and firm, he elaborates, and ordinary Americans understand “that our ties with Israel are deep and strong, and that they’re mutual… We need Israel for our own national security. We need Israel to keep ourselves safe as well.”

Acknowledging the challenge of BDS, and anti-Israel activism on campus, Ryan is adamant, nonetheless: “There is a nasty strain of anti-Semitism. You read more about it in Europe. But (in the US) this is infinitesimal. The support for Israel is deep in America.”

David has posted a lightly edited version of his interview with Ryan here along with the video below. I found the interview and the video of interest and wanted to take the liberty of drawing your attention to them.

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