“Unfortunately – Democrats and Republicans in Congress don't trust Barack Obama," said Hikind, who is a Democrat. "It hurts me to say this about my president. I love America. But when Barack Obama said at the State of the Union that Iran has stopped moving toward nuclear armament – he was not telling the truth. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that this was not the truth, what he said. This is not a difference of opinion between Israel and the US – this is about an existential threat to the people of Israel. The first target of Iran, God forbid, are the people of Israel.
“I do not trust Obama's word. I am thrilled that the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is going to have an opportunity to speak to the leaders of America, the Congress of the United States, representing all 50 states, and to present the concerns that Israel has. And by the way, with all the criticism of the prime minister coming from many different places, this will get more attention than ever before. He will have an opportunity to present the facts in terms of the threat from Iran."
Not an enemy but not a friend
Asked if he sees Obama as an enemy of Israel, Assemblyman Hikind said that he doesn't think Obama is an enemy of Netanyahu or of the people of Israel.
However, he added “I also don't think he's the kind of friend that we need in such difficult times. Israel lives in a very difficult neighborhood. There's no country in the world that faces the threats that Israel faces on every single border. And we're talking about a small country. Israel cannot afford to lose once, God forbid. I think there's an ideology and a philosophy that Obama has, that I believe could endanger the people of Israel. In poll after poll in Israel, people on the political left, on the center and right overwhelmingly say they do not feel that Obama is a true friend.
“You know who the example to me, is, of a real friend? The prime minister of Canada, (Stephen) Harper. Our neighbor to the north. They get it – they understand.”
Asked what causes anti-Semitism and how it can be stopped, Hikind said: “There's no clear answer for that – it's something that people have been talking about for ever and ever. Trying to figure out how to deal with anti-Semitism. It's something that will always be there. It's part of every single society, in some places more, in some places less. There are people who talk about education. 'We have to educate people.' That's a wonderful thing to say. But in France, as an example, where the anti-Semitism is out of control, a lot of that anti-Semitism comes from the intellectual class. From the smart people. The people who have degrees, who write books, who are very very smart. How do we educate them, the intellectuals?
“We should never give up. We always have to explain the facts. About the people of Israel in this little piece of land in the Middle East who are trying to live life in peace and tranquility. That's all they want. Israel's position is such simple one, but it seems so complicated throughout the world. So we should try to do what we can. Will we ever be successful? No, but we can maybe make things a little better.”
What are Israeli voters thinking?
Hikind admits that he is baffled by the mind of the Israeli voter. "I watch what's going on in Israel and I watch it very carefully my entire life. I don't understand how Likud and Labor can be close in the polls. As far as Tzipi Livni is concerned, there's nothing to discuss. She is probably a very confused person, in terms of what her own beliefs are. She comes from one end, to the middle, to the other end, to the middle. She is confused.
"As far as Herzog is concerned, all I can say is one thing: I'm not impressed with him. Is this the person that is going to confront the challenges that the people of Israel face right now?
"I would urge everyone to remember one thing. Who does Barack Obama want to be the next prime minister of Israel? The answer is Labor. Because if Labor is in power, Obama will be able to dictate to the people of Israel what exactly should be done. Obama has nightmares regarding Netanyahu getting reelected.
"I like people like Naftali Bennett and other people who I think are great future leaders of Israel, but as far as prime minister during these difficult times with a threat from Iran that involves the very existence of the state of Israel – the only choice is Benjamin Netanyahu."
Regarding the issue of "gay marriage" that has become a wedge issue in Israeli politics given Jewish law forbidding homosexuality, Hikind makes clear that he is "obviously totally against same sex marriage." But he adds that with regard to Israel, "if someone asked me whether he should vote for a party that is not clear on that subject, I would not tell him to automatically disqualify that party. Protecting Israel's security is the most important issue for me.
As for Yesh Atid, which prides itself on promoting same sex marriage, he says: "It's very unfortunate, if someone runs for office and their entire platform is meant to divide the people of Israel, that's very unfortunate. People like Yair Lapid – his purpose is to divide the Jewish people. It is very clear to me that Lapid and his father before him, their purpose was to create a schism. It can't be that 'if you are religious, you are living in the dark ages, you are backward.' When the Jewish people are united, we can defeat our enemies. If we are fighting one another – that can lead to internal destruction.
Hikind readily admits that he was deeply influenced by former MK Rabbi Meir Kahane hy''d. "When I was 18, I went to Yeshivas Torah Vada'at. I remember hearing about Soviet Jewry – that we have to help our brothers and sisters who are living in the Soviet Union. Rabbi Kahane taught me to actually practice love of Israel, not just talk about it. So he had a tremendous influence on my life. I wish he was here today to deal with these difficult times. He was a brilliant man, and many things that he predicted 30 years ago are happening right now.
An even more central influence is the memory of the Holocaust. "My mother went to Auschwitz in 1944, with her family. Her mother went straight to the gas chamber. Can you believe this? My grandmother went to a gas chamber? Nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters of my mother went to gas chambers? Other people did this to our people? My whole life is determined by what happened to my family. My responsibility to be there for a fellow Jew, to fight for our people, is all determined by the experiences of our people.
"I know everyone has heard this so many times. But we need to hear it again: six million people. Two million children murdered by intellectuals, by the most advanced country in Europe during that time. They took our children and murdered them. And you know something – little has changed in the world. Unfortunately, there are people out there today in the world, who if they had the opportunity today to do the same thing to our people, would do it again."