Zionists have been looking forward to this day ever since the result of the US presidential election was determined. The day in question, of course, is the day that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and controversial US President, Donald J. Trump would hold their first official meeting. That day was yesterday, and the results were heartening to say the least. Before we all get too excited however, I have to tell you, dear readers, that we Zionists need to temper our emotions down from blind exuberance to cautious optimism.
Donald Trump has been widely touted by his supporters (as well as by himself), as a true friend for Israel. Yesterday’s press conference (read the full transcript) and subsequent meeting acted as preliminary test of that alleged friendship. The results were, if the Jewish press is to be believed, better than expected. However, the reaction also may have been a little over the top. Social media featured op-ed pieces claiming that “The Two State Solution is Dead”, and that “Israel’s Problems Are Solved”. As much as I would love to believe these things, it is not yet time for unbridled celebration.
We witnessed a number of positive things during the press conference, many of which seemed impossible under the previous administration. A US President spoke publicly about the dangers of Jihad, without avoiding the word “Islamic”. An Israeli Prime Minister was allowed to address the entire American nation, and tell it exactly what the reality is like on the ground in Israel. A US President spoke in a way which gave us hope that the enemies of Israel will be considered enemies of the United States once again. An Israeli Prime Minister explained the indigenous claim that Jews have to the region of Judea, more commonly known as “The West Bank”. Neither party pushed the failed and currently unworkable policy of the “Two State Solution”, and most inspiring, and reassuring of all: We saw two world leaders who appeared to have a healthy mutual respect and sense of friendship. President Donald J. Trump, who so many have painted as a blustering blowhard with no respect for anyone, conducted himself as a genuine statesman, and not only treated Netanyahu as an equal partner, but also established that the Israelis are the ones who have the final say on what happens in their own borders.
“How can the apparent friendship between Netanyahu and Trump be more encouraging than the policy and positions laid out in the press conference”, some might ask. Well, as the saying goes; “action talks, and bull-dreck walks”. Notice that the saying doesn’t say “flowery speech talks”. What we have heard thus far is still just talk, albeit more encouraging than we’ve heard in many years, and until we see concrete action, talk is all it will be. Donald Trump has said a lot of the right things so far, at least where Israel is concerned, but that isn’t enough for us to celebrate too heavily. It would be easy to take what was said today, lean back in our chairs and breath sighs of relief, content that Israel once again has a friend in Washington. The worst thing we as Zionists can do is to become complacent, and with how frustrating our uphill battle can sometimes be, that would be totally understandable. The truth is that any time that we spend patting ourselves on the back will be time that Israel’s enemies can use to gain strength and support. It doesn’t matter if those enemies are Hamas, the Palestinian Authority or even a local college’s SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) group. They all benefit if we lose focus now. The things that we heard in todays press conference are certainly cause for optimism, but there are still problems to overcome. Problems that the strong relationship between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will help to resolve, but problems nonetheless.
Some concerns still remain, despite the positive shift towards Israel that we have seen from the new US administration. The issue of Jewish communities (sometimes pejoratively referred to as “settlements”) in Judea and Samaria is clearly still a point of contention, though admittedly and obviously far less so than it was for the Obama administration. Donald Trump, while seemingly genuine in his respect for, and friendship towards Israel and Netanyahu, also has yet to show any real foreign policy acumen, apart from recognizing that Israel is best equipped to lead the way in the discussion of peace. The reason the relationship between Trump and Netanyahu is so important, and so reassuring, is that the problems will become less like mountains, and more like molehills. The interactions between Israel and the USA become more collaborative instead of more adversarial, and progress is made towards peace. Not peace at any cost, but a responsible peace that keeps Israel strong, keeps Jews living where we belong in Judea and Samaria, and most importantly, keeps Jews living period.