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A Few Minutes With Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas governor Greg Abbott, a first-term Republican, visited Israel in January: “It’s one thing to tell you that we stand with Israel, it’s another thing to show it.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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As part of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, the State Department dispatched a letter in April to governors of all 50 states asking them to reconsider any laws on their books that sanction Tehran or discourage businesses in their states from conducting business with Iran. This request did not sit well with Texas governor Greg Abbott, a first-term Republican, who visited Israel in January, and stopped off in New York last week, where he outlined his opposition to the Obama administration’s pressure.

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What role can Texas play to slow down a process that is a linchpin of Obama administration policy and supported by the international community?

To help you understand the magnitude of this, Texas is the 12th-largest economy in the world, and our state domestic product exceeds $1.6 trillion, making this a commitment as powerful economically to that of Australia or Canada. When we take part in economic divestment, it carries quite a bit of economic heft, and also symbolism. It’s one thing to tell you that we stand with Israel, it’s another thing to show it. The president made a request dated April 8 for every state to join in the administration’s removal of sanctions and divestment against Iran. I responded with a letter of my own, making it clear to the president that Texas will have no part of this effort. We will not only continue our divestment policy [versus Iran], we will also expand it. Sanctions aside, we are also encouraging and supporting other states in joining us in this effort.

Do you think other large states such as New York or California will cooperate with you?

Congress empowered each state to make its decision whether or not to continue the divestiture process, and so we will be reaching out to all 49 governors in a bipartisan way, asking them to support this principal. I view a nuclear Iran as a potential existential threat not only to Israel, but to nations across the globe, including the USA. It makes no sense to me that the USA would play accomplice to arming and funding a nation that has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to comply with any of the demands expected of them, and which expresses a desire to eradicate Israel. Texas will take the lead in sending the message that we support a safer Israel, and hopefully, others will follow suit.

Does the federal executive branch have the power to intercede or bring the states to its heels?

Our authority to do so was granted by Congress, not the president. All the president is doing is asking us, which is all he can do. If the president does push harder on this, and we continue to push back, it almost embarrasses the president, making him look weak and impotent — as though he can’t do anything — because the reality is he cannot. He can’t compel us to act any differently. In fact, what is happening raises a red flag with regards to the president, because he assumed power he did not have. The way it’s supposed to work is through a treaty process, and the president skirted the rules of the process and took power away from Congress, just one of countless ways in which he has changed the balance of powers in Washington, D.C.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., now that your home state senator, Ted Cruz, has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, will you be throwing your support to Donald Trump?

My support for Ted Cruz was not just because we share a home state. Cruz worked for me, and is a friend of mine, I know how he thinks and operates, and I trust his judgment and convictions. I can tell you this: Had Ted Cruz been elected president, he would have been the most pro-Israel president in the history of the US. He didn’t win the nomination, however, so a choice must be made between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Not participating is not a choice. If you don’t participate, you are an accomplice to electing Hillary Clinton.

Will you endorse Trump?

Candidly, I don’t know Donald Trump and I don’t know what his positions are. I do, however, know Hillary Clinton’s positions, and what she will do, and she’ll be catastrophic to the USA. I’m perplexed about the Jewish community in this regard. After seeing eight years of the damage wrought by the Obama administration to Israel and the US-Israel alliance, and to our ability to work with Israel for world peace and security, how can anyone who cares about Israel support a Democrat? Consequently, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, she will perpetuate Barack Obama’s deal with Iran. I believe that if a Republican is elected president, a new and better deal is going to be struck.

Speaking of Israel, what were some opinions you formed when you visited Israel in January?

Well, aside from the fact that there are so many ways in which we have an economic overlay, including the fields of energy, water, and safety technology, our people are very similar. Like Texas, Israel is a start-up nation that flourishes economically. Their people have a strong backbone; we share a commitment to defending liberty and state sovereignty as well as civil rights. I met with Bibi Netanyahu, who told me that when his son returned from a trip to Texas, he said, “Dad, Texans are just like us!”

Speaking of Texas backbone, you have shared the story of how you became a paraplegic during an accident following a storm in 1984, yet you persevered through rehabilitation and obtained the posts of attorney general, governor, and associate justice in the Texas Supreme Court. What gave you the strength to persevere?

Well, my mantra became “Our lives are not defined by challenges, rather, by how we respond to challenges.” I chose to respond to those challenges with faith, and courage, and to refuse to give up. It wasn’t easy — I once posted a tweet saying, “pray as if everything depends on G-d.” Moments later an atheist follower responded: “If your G-d is real, then you will be able to get out of your wheelchair right now and run a marathon.” I simply answered the following: “That’s not G-d’s design. I’ve won races that people with legs could never run. G-d’s plan is bigger than walking.” If you have faith and respond to challenges with the belief that you can overcome, anything is possible.

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