The show of solidarity afforded to the State of Israel at the Israeli-American Council national summit in Florida on Saturday was one of the most impressive ever. Nearly 4,000 IAC members gave standing ovations to every pro-Israel message uttered on stage.
This may seem like a natural occurrence at a pro-Israel summit, but when the summit’s keynote speaker is none other than President Donald Trump, who gives everything he has to the audience short of actually converting to Judaism, you really do have to pinch yourself and wonder—is this really happening?
Trump loves us. Period. No “but” or “maybe” about it. I have argued this time and again. And the Israeli public feels the difference—after eight years of the Obama administration, it’s a little hard to get used to all the benefits Washington is affording Israel. True, we’re no strangers to friendly and warm American presidents, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush. But one way or another, we have become accustomed to any benefits and gestures coming in exchange for concessions, sometimes painful ones.
Things are different with Trump. Not only have his administration’s gestures never been conditioned on Israeli concessions, but he also never shows up empty-handed, so to speak, thus repeatedly stunning skeptical pundits. First was the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem, then the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and his decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Then came the announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refuting the false and misleading narrative that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria somehow violate international law.
What’s more, all of this has taken place with a year to go before the president’s first term ends—and something tells me there’s more to come. Is it any wonder that the audience kept chanting “four more years” during his speech?
But something clouded the event. I have had the opportunity to talk to President Trump on numerous occasions, including at the conference, and have been repeatedly reminded of the fact that he is the most pro-Israel president we have ever dealt with. But Israel, instead of making the most out of this tremendous friendship and promoting issues imperative to Israel, is crippled by a political logjam and mired in mudslinging, leaks and accusations, all while our best friend is struggling to understand what is happening with its stable partner in the Middle East.
It is a pity that, with such a sympathetic administration to work with, Israel can’t seem to muster up a stable government—and, it can be said, a stable nationalist government. The Israeli nationalist camp has been blessed with an American president who wants to give, unconditionally, but who has no one to give to. Israel’s political system is responsible for this as a whole, but right-wing lawmakers are doubly responsible, as they are the ones who are throwing away a historic opportunity—one that may never come again—to realize substantial parts of their vision for the country.
Instead of taking advantage of this ideological golden age, they play musical chairs, hide-and-seek, and present each other with ultimatums. Each and every one of these lawmakers knows exactly what part they play in this political mess, and each knows what they have to do to climb down from the proverbial tree so that the seats won in the elections can be turned into a stable nationalist government.
Some are under the impression they will go down in history as decent politicians who stood by their principles, but in reality, they are more likely to be sidelined for petty politics that prevented Israel from making historic moves.
If there is one moment that encapsulates everything for me, it was when Yair Fumberg, a member of the Shalva Band, which performed at the summit, ran into Trump’s arms to hug him. It was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. For a moment, I thought this adorable boy represented you and me on the stage—he was charming Israel; religious and secular, right and left—the Israel that owes a huge thank you to Trump. And indeed both Fumberg and the Shalva Band thanked Trump on behalf of the entire nation of Israel.
Hanukkah is approaching, and in a few days Israel may face its third election campaign of the year. Is there a chance for a Hanukkah miracle this year, if not for Trump, then for Israel? It is closer than ever—it’s within our reach—if we are only wise enough to grab it.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate