The massive change in policies by the Trump Administration towards Israel has been overlooked by most observers. Those that are hawkish on Israel point to the areas that have not yet changed and condemn those areas. Those that are not Trump supporters, focus on other areas to criticize the President and ignore the positive changes for Israel. The main exception to this rule has been the Government of Israel that has been mostly effusive in its praise of the Trump administration.
The significant positive changes for the Trump Administration have come from the start from President Trump himself. Trump kept his commitment to visit Israel on his first foreign trip. His visit was marked by strongly pro-Israel speeches and a visit to the Western Wall. Trump also gave an extraordinarily pro-Israel speech in his High Holiday Conference call with Jewish Leaders in which he proclaimed his love for Israel.
Vice President Pence has shown in word and deed to be a great friend of Israel. Pence went to the St. Louis Jewish Cemetery to help repair the gravestones after they were desecrated. Pence gave the most Pro-Israel speech ever given by a U.S. Vice President at the White House reception recognizing Israel’s 69th year of Independence and it was the first such reception celebrating Israel’s Independence ever held by a U.S. Administration. His moving words recognizing the miracle of Israel’s creation and the hand of G-d in its creation was quite remarkable by an American Vice President. Ambassador David Friedman emceed the White House reception for Israel. Friedman, a member of at least one Young Israel Synagogue, is proudly Orthodox and already has the closest relationship in history of any U.S. Ambassador to the government of Israel. Friedman even participated in ceremonies commemorating Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War in an Israeli ceremony in Jerusalem. Friedman publicly advocates for recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and supports allowing Jonathan Pollard to live in Israel.
President Trump has appointed Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner to oversee his policy toward Israel. Kushner’s family is well known for their extraordinary philanthropy including providing charity to Israel and Jewish education. Greenblatt headed the Trump campaign efforts on issues relating to the Jewish community with numerous pro-Israel opeds. Since taking his position in the Trump Administration, Greenblatt has shown tremendous care concerning Jewish issues by meeting with Israeli families whose loved ones are in Gaza, whether dead or alive. He and Kushner have also visited Israeli victims of terrorism and the Trump Administration has ended the absurd policies of calling on Israel to act with restraint after being attacked by terrorists. Instead, the Administration rightly condemns the terrorists and visits the victims. Further, the constant public criticism of Israel that occurred under President Obama has ended and the communication with Israel has never been better. It is clear that for the first time in Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman that these three religiously observant Jews are making U.S. policy toward Israel as to what is in the best interest of the U.S. and not trying to lean toward the Palestinian Arabs for fear of being criticized as being supportive of Israel due to their religious background. This has been a huge welcomed improvement.
The other significant improvement in the policies of the Trump Administration toward Israel has to do with Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. did not find Iran in compliance with the JCPOA nuclear agreement. Few recall that the signing of the JCPOA led immediately to the Russian intervention in Syria, which saved the Iranian backed Assad regime.
The Trump Administration has increased sanctions on Iran for their involvement with terrorism and has made stopping Iran’s spread of terrorism to be a major goal. It is fascinating to see Iran go from threatening the Obama Administration that they would leave the nuclear deal with any criticism of Iran to now Iran desperately trying to keep the deal and telling the Trump Administration it cannot end the deal. With this new policy, the Trump Administration has formed a Sunni Arab alliance against Iran being led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Relations with the Saudis have improved because the U.S. Administration has helped influence the Saudis to start a policy of opposing radical Islam and to confront Iran. Behind the scenes, it is obvious that the Saudis have developed covert ties with Israel that is helping both countries.
Those criticizing the Trump Administration in regards to Israel have mainly focused on Trump’s failures to keep his word on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and not significantly changing the policy toward the Palestinian Authority. As it relates to the Embassy, Vice President Pence and Ambassador Friedman have said publicly it is a matter of not if but when. It is a promise President Trump made not just publicly but in writing to the Evangelical community as well. His daughter Ivanka two weeks before the elections said 100% that he will move the Embassy to Jerusalem. The reason why he has not moved it, is because President Trump wants the ultimate deal of peace in the Middle East and the Arabs have convinced him that moving the Embassy will jeopardize that deal.
Accordingly, the Embassy move to Jerusalem in many ways goes hand and hand with the other main criticism of the Trump Administration in how it relates to the Palestinian Authority. However, this criticism which is now mainly based upon reports of a peace plan that the Administration denies, is criticism that ignores the significant improvement in its policy. The improvements include the Trump Administration no longer advocating for a Palestinian Arab state (this of course may change). Further, when President Trump was lied to by Palestinian Authority President Abbas by falsely claiming that they are educating Palestinian Arab children toward peace, Trump responded in their next meeting by yelling at Abbas and calling him a liar.
The Trump Administration has indicated its support for the Taylor Force Act which will reduce U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority due to its reward payments to terrorists and their families for murdering Israelis and even Americans living in Israel or tourists like Taylor Force. It was also publicized that both Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner raised this issue of reward payments to terrorists directly with Abbas. Further, the Trump Administration indicted the first two Palestinian Arab terrorists who murdered Americans including notorious terrorist Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi resides now in Jordan and was responsible for the murder of 15 people including 7 children and 2 Americans and the wounding of around 100 other people. She went from publicly supporting Hamas in her home in Amman, Jordan to now being put on the FBI most wanted list. A criticism of the Trump Administration is that there does not seem to be any ramification to Jordan after it turned down the U.S. request for Tamimi’s extradition.
The Trump Administration has made it clear that it will no longer try to impose a solution on Israel with regards to the Palestinian Authority or put in a timetable as well. However, the mistake is that there is still an effort on trying to obtain an agreement that would obviously not be kept by the Palestinian Authority as they have not kept any previous agreement. Instead, the Palestinian Authority needs to be treated like Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas (who the Palestinian Authority just signed an agreement with on unity). The main problem that previous Administration’s ignored was that the Palestinian Authority not only still advocates for Israel’s destruction but financially gives incentives to terrorists, educates its children to commit terrorism and does not have a functioning system of Justice except to execute those who sell land to Jews. A recent statement by Secretary Tillerson that the Palestinian Authority offices in D.C. may be closed because they are trying to go to the International Criminal Court is a good step in the right direction. The Administration should also support allowing law suits against the Palestinian Authority for its support of terrorism which led to American deaths and others wounded. It is not in the U.S. interest to have a Palestinian Arab state when all indications are that such a state will be one that not only gives safe havens for terrorists, including those who murdered Americans, but actually pays and rewards such terrorists. President George W. Bush famously said after 9/11 as a justification for going to war in Afghanistan that the U.S. considers those who give safe havens for terrorists to be equally morally culpable to the terrorists themselves.
The Trump Administration should adopt a policy of moral clarity in its foreign policy. The Trump Administration followed such moral clarity when it decided to bomb Syria after it used chemical weapons. It is this policy that has led to improved relations with U.S. allies like Israel instead of working on improving relations with enemies of America like Iran. It is this policy that would find abhorrent Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who financed the Olympic Munich Massacre and who wrote his only thesis that included a Holocaust denial. Only a few years ago Abbas extolled the last surviving terrorist from Munich Abu Daoud as a hero and a few years ago Abbas did an interview reiterating his denial of the Holocaust.
Instead of looking at trying to obtain the ultimate peace deal with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Trump Administration should highlight its major progress in transforming the relationship between Israel and the Sunni Arab countries and possibly obtain open relations between such countries. The argument that such relations cannot come without resolving the issue of the Palestinian Arabs has never made sense. Israel obtained relations with Egypt and Jordan without such a resolution with the Palestinian Authority so it should be even easier to have such relations with the other Arab countries. Further, if President Trump would follow through with recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem he would end the unjust policy of not recognizing the capital of its ally Israel. Further, without a unified Jerusalem, Israel would not have secure borders so if the Trump Administration is true to its commitment to Israel’s security then recognizing Jerusalem as its capital is essential. Finally, two of the authors of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Senator Bob Dole and Senator Jon Kyl stated that the reason behind the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995 was that the only way to have peace was to take Jerusalem off the negotiation table. It is interesting to note that successive Administrations did not follow Dole and Kyl’s advice and all have failed miserably in their efforts to make peace.
Overall, the Trump Administration has made massive improvements with their policies as it relates to Israel. As of right now, President Trump has kept his commitment to be the best friend Israel has ever had. Newspaper stories in Israel have related that Prime Minister Netanyahu agrees with this assessment. It is likely the Trump Administration’s policies can lead to a massive increase in Jewish support for Trump in the next Presidential Election but only if such a policy is maintained.