If the Democrats want to take back the White House in next years presidential elections, the contenders in the race need to focus more on Donald Trump divisive and self-centered presidency, as well as on the accomplishments of his predecessor Barack Obama, according to U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Coney Island, parts of Queens).
Jeffries weighed in on the presidential debates thus far, The Democrats relationship with Israel and local Brooklyn politics among other subjects in a wide-ranging discussion this week with local reporters at his district office.
“To begin with can we focus on Donald Trump and not Barack Obama’s legacy?” Jeffries said when answering a question on what he thought of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates thus far.
“It seems to me we should be building upon what Barack Obama was able to do successfully during his eight years as president and not trying to tear it down when you have someone who’s a reckless figure like Donald Trump occupying 1600 Pensylvania Avenue.
“We also need to speak in a more aggressive fashion on the hopes, dreams, and aspirations to become part of the middle class on issues that include healthcare but also every other aspect of financial insecurity that the American people are experiencing. We should be advancing an agenda that is designed to promote prosperity in every single zip code in the United States of America as compared to what the Republicans have done in my view, which is to promote the privileged few. Exhibit A being the GOP tax scam,” he added.
When asked about the Jewish majority historic support of the Democratic Party’s support for Israel in light of some of the party’s fringe such as U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) anti-Semitic support of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, Jeffries reiterated the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus recognizes the importance of the relationship that exists between the United States and Israel both from a value standpoint and a security standpoint.
“As it relates to BDS, we spoke pretty clearly with a resolution that both condemned the BDS movement and articulated our strong support for a robust two-state solution where Israel and the Palestinians can live side by side in peace and prosperity. We passed that resolution during the week prior to the August district work period with only 17 members of the house voting against it, 16 of whom were Democrats. There are 235 members of the House Democratic Caucus. I’m not that good at math but you guys can figure out that’s pretty much an overwhelming repudiation of the BDS movement,” said Jeffries.
Jeffries noted that the issues in the Middle East are very complicated and having traveled to Israel four times, and most recently including an official Congressional delegation meeting with both Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that there continues to be an acknowledgment on both sides there remains tough issues to work through.
“We have to find a way to create hope and space as it relates to the possibility that there are ways that things can get better and that peace is obtainable in a way that will allow Israel to continue to exist as a Jewish and Democratic state side by side with the Palestinians being able to fulfill their legitimate aspirations for self-determination with an independent state that President Abbas said he recognizes with the need to be demilitarized,” said Jeffries.
When responding to a question about the right of the BDS movement to peacefully protest, Jeffries said the BDS movement to him seems like an effort to delegitimize the state of Israel and its right to exist and several of its founders pretty explicitly indicated that this was their perspective.
“So to me, part of the challenge of the BDS movement is that it fails to recognize the reality that it needs to pursue a two-state solution. There are far to the right people in Israel who fail to recognize the importance of a two-state solution as well,” he said.
Jeffries said to him there is too much much focus on an individual political leader in this Middle East issue.
“It’s not a relationship between Trump and Netanyahu. It’s not a relationship between Likud and the Republican Party. It’s not a relationship between Benny Gantz and Nancy Pelosi. It’s not a relationship between the Democratic Party and Blue and White. It’s a relationship between the United States of America and Israel. If we recenter it in that fashion then I think its good for the Israelis, its good for the Palestinians and it will be good for the United States of America, because it will be divorced from the political context and it will be recentered on the notion of how to bring about permanent and lasting peace in that part of that world,” said Jeffries.
In regard to Brooklyn politics, Jeffries said he doesn’t know enough about the recent financial woes of the Kings County Democratic Party to comment on that specifically, but he does have a lot of confidence in Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio.
“I believe he has moved the party in a more inclusive direction to incorporate the variety of different perspectives that exist. Of course, there are moments when not everyone is pleased with anyone’s leadership but I have a great working relationship with him and I believe that he’s tried to be as inclusive of the diversity of communities as they exist in Brooklyn and has consistently shown a willingness to be open to new ideas,” said Jeffries.