President Trump and the view of Israelis

US president Donald Trump delivers his final speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before his departure, on May 23, 2017. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For the most part Israelis are glad for the election of President Trump. Most a little sad that he did not move the U. S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But generally, they are relieved to see the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of this new one. They understand that President Trump is bombastic, but they are more concerned about policy.

First, Israel looks at how American policy is responding to them as a nation. They believe the last administration treated them unfairly. They believe that the Obama administration treated them badly. Israel was blamed for the lack of progress in the peace process while the great majority of Israelis believe that the lack of progress is due to the Palestinians. While the Obama administration emphasized building housing east of the green armistice line as the primary impediment (President Obama actually inspired making a settlement freeze a pre-condition to talks) Israelis see the issue as the intransigence and insincerity of the Palestinian leadership that does not want peace. The Barak government during the Clinton administration, offered an amazingly generous settlement in the view of most Israelis. President Clinton told Y. Arafat, “You have made me a failure.” He clearly blamed him, not Israel. Amazingly an even more generous offer was made by E. Olmert during the Bush presidency. President Abbas walked away. This has convinced Israelis that there is no real partner for peace on the other side. Therefore, they elected a more conservative government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

In addition, since Gaza is ruled by Hamas which Israel considers a terrorist organization, and since Abbas is no longer the elected leader, there is no party that can make peace that represents all of the Palestinians. We can talk to President Abbas, but he can not implement a peace agreement. Were he to run in an election, it is very possible that Hamas would be elected. Under these circumstances, Israelis believe that they have no choice but to just live with the situation. Plus many believe that settlements are necessary for strategic depth even if there is a peace plan and that the territory of the settlements is only 2% of the land over the green line and Gaza.

The Trump administration is not consistent. Israelis see this. The ambassador from the United States, David Friedman, says that settlements are not a problem and is very pro-Israel. Israelis appreciate this. But the State Department pushes back. Israel would prefer that this inconsistency not be the case. But President Trump allows it. They think and hope that his own sentiments are more with Ambassador Friedman. However, President Trump is at least more even handed and blames the Palestinians at least as much more than Israel for the problems.

Israelis have great appreciation for Nikki Haley. Her very strong Israel defense of Israel at the United Nations is greatly appreciated. This is another great change, especially since the Obama administration allowed a condemnation of Israel to pass in the Security Council in regard to Israel policy in the so called Occupied Territories.

Israel also appreciates that the Trump administration is much more adamant in its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program and its continued development of ICBMs.

There are other reasons why Israelis are more happy with Donald Trump. The country as a whole has moved to a more conservative orientation. This is amazing in the light of Israel’s socialistic origins and the philosophy of the labor government. Israel moved from a more socialistic economy to a more free enterprise economy in the mid 90s. There is low unemployment (though wages are way too low). Now all but a small minority are basically oriented to free enterprise, even the old Labor Party, today’s Zionist Union. Only the leftist Meritz party is really socialistic and this accounts for only 4 to 6 seats in the 120 member Knesset. So Israelis are comfortable today with a more conservative government in the United States. Around the world, more conservative governments are more supportive of Israel, not liberal governments. We compare Harper in Canada with Trudeau today. So also Australia and New Zealand show that this is true in general.

Yet, Israelis also might worry that Donald Trumps tendency to shoot form the lip (my phrase) could undercut the progress and that he could lose his political influence in America.

One get’s a pretty good idea of Israeli opinion first of all in the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, and less so in more liberal papers. But in the polling the reality comes through. There are liberals who despise Israel’s leader, who want to give in to the Palestinians and who think Israel is the problem. They miss Barack Obama. But they are by far the minority.

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Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.