While many Israelis are ecstatic about the Trump victory, we can’t ignore that the vast majority of American Jews voted for Clinton. In Washington and Jerusalem responsible leadership and sensitivity is needed to mend the rifts and move forward. American Jewry is rapidly feeling more isolated from Israel who often doesn’t understand the uniqueness and beauty of the American Jewish experience and we can’t afford yet another split between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, it’s time to come together.
First let’s deal with the elephant in the room, many Israelis see Trump as more sympathetic to the Jewish State. He presented a totally different approach to Israel when he said: “[Israel] will no longer be treated like a second class citizen”, has been extremely critical of the Iran Nuclear Deal and committed to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, he has surrounded himself with advisors on Israel who are skeptical of the creation of a Palestinian state and are sympathetic to the 430,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria (commonly termed the West Bank).
As the Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council, I am responsible for international outreach on behalf of the hundreds of Israeli communities, towns and cities across the highlands of Judea and Samaria. My responsibilities include briefings with the international press, foreign lawmakers, diplomats, professors and above all Jews from abroad. Unlike many of my peers, my policy has always been to meet with all groups, irrespective of their religious or political affiliation because opening people’s hearts and minds to the reality of life in Judea and Samaria is above politics and is vital to understanding Israel.
That’s why whenever I’m on Capitol Hill I gladly meet with senior Democrats and Republicans. It’s also why I prepared statements for both presidential candidates with a personal invitation to come visit our communities. Irrespective of who is in the White House, Israel’s challenges will remain the same and the special bond between Israeli and world Jewry must forever grow stronger.
For a Democrat or Republican, looking down at 70% of Israel’s population and industrial base from the hills of Judea and Samaria will implant the strategic importance of our presence. Meeting with Israelis and Palestinians that already live and work peacefully together will change their perspective on the two-state formula, or at least confuse them with the facts.
I believe that peace and understanding between people can only occur through dialogue and shared experience. This is true for Israelis and Palestinians as well as Israeli and American Jewry. If we don’t interact with each other, our differences will only grow. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, what matters are that the Jewish people remain united. I don’t need people to agree with me, I just want them to understand who I am, what I represent and what we share in common.
Irrespective of your feelings about the Obama Administration, both the American-Jewish community and Israel are hopeful that we are entering a new era of limited friction between the two allied countries. This is welcome news to the many Jewish organizations that often found themselves mediating flare-ups between Jerusalem and DC. And with a less confrontational Administration, it will free up the Jewish-American world to be more open and receptive to non-traditional initiatives and approaches to peace and coexistence that have begun to flourish in Judea & Samaria.
This is not the time for Israeli politicians to make declarations of what US policy should be regarding Israel or begin preparing their shopping lists for the new President. It is the time to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the US and offer them the opportunity to come and view the facts on the ground for themselves without concern of challenging the US Administration.
Trump’s remarks in his victory speech could be easily applied to the relationship between American and Israeli Jewry; “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; [we] have to get together.”
And so could Secretary Clinton’s remarks in her concession speech “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”
Israel and American Jewry can take a cue from both Presidential candidates, now isn’t the time to create more divides, its time to meet, talk and discuss our shared interests for a better Jewish future.