On Friday’s traditional pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call with American Jewish leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump recalled his track record on issues related to the American Jewish community and renewed his promises ahead of the Jewish New Year.
During the call, President Trump reiterated his support for the State of Israel. He expressed hope in seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians and gratefulness to Holocaust survivors for telling stories that help confront evil, and ensured protection against Jewish communities that face security threats, slander, and hate.
According to Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel and Trump insider, the President will continue his proven pro-Israel track record and follow up on promises that he made during the election campaign, Zell told Breaking Israel News.
This Wednesday evening begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year, and the first of 10 days of repentance, which concludes with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are instructed to do a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul, to prepare for the reckoning of our doings over the past year.
Trump’s own cheshbon hanefesh – an accounting of how he has measured up to his promises and what he hopes to do in the future for the Jewish people – was laid out in his phone call.
On Support for Israel
Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor and son-in-law to the president, as well as an Orthodox Jew, began the call by reaffirming the president’s “love and respect for the Jewish people that extends way beyond his family and into the heart of Jewish American communities,” his relationship with the State of Israel, and U.S. commitment to Israel’s security.
On the conference call, President Trump established his support for America’s “cherished friend and ally, the State of Israel,” praising it as a “symbol of resilience in the face of oppression.” He acknowledged the vital security alliance and shared values between the two countries and stated that Israel “has persevered in the face of hostility, championed democracy in the face of violence, and succeeded in the face of very, very tall odds.”
Trump’s early months in office showed a clear and strong support for the Jewish state, with the president visiting Israel relatively early on in his term. However, this past June, President Trump followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and vetoed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, against his promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the presidential campaign., disappointing many of his pro-Israel voters.
But Zell is optimistic for the future, telling Breaking Israel News he believes the president will continue his demonstrated respect for Israeli self-determination and sovereignty by moving the U.S. embassy to the capital this year. It hasn’t happened yet, he said, because “up until now they were trying to create conditions suitable for reaching some kind of accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs and particularly because of the importance of that issue to coalition building against Iran in Middle East.”
On Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
Looking towards the coming year, President Trump revealed his hope in seeing “significant progress” before the end of the year between the Israelis and Palestinians on the call. “I think it’s something that could actually happen,” he affirmed.
This past May, in his first trip abroad as President, Trump visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem in hopes of reviving peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. He concluded that “while peace won’t be easy,” with compromise, Israel and the Palestinians “can make a deal.”
Zell is skeptical that an overall accord will be reached, but hopes that the President can “be helpful in reducing friction and incitement between the two sides.” Unlike the previous administration, Zell told Breaking Israel News, the President is “communicating a clear message to the Palestinian Arabs which they haven’t heard in many, many years, and that is that the United States is simply not going to roll over and acquiesce to the Palestinian Arab demands.
“The Palestinians are going to have to demonstrate that they can create an environment in which both people can live together, and at the moment that principally concerns the elimination of incitement and support for terror.”
On Fighting Anti-Semitism
On the conference call, President Trump mentioned the “unthinkable persecution” that the Jewish people have endured and gave special recognition for the several Holocaust survivors. “You have borne witness to evil beyond human comprehension, and your perseverance is a lasting inspiration to us all. By telling your stories, you help us to confront evil in our world and we are forever grateful,” he said.
President Trump has recently come under fire within the American Jewish community for refusing to strongly condemn white supremacists that chanted anti-Semitic smears and carried Nazi flags in the Charlottesville marches. During the call, President Trump condemned anti-Semitism and those who “spread any form of slander and hate,” promising to protect “Jewish communities and all communities that face threats to their safety.”
Zell believes that the President has a limited role in fighting hate crimes on the ground, as this is the responsibility of federal law enforcement, agencies like the FBI, and state and local authorities. He suggests that this coming year, Trump should continue to “set the tone” by making clear statements that he will protect the Jewish communities and follow up by supporting law enforcement working to address anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head.
On Combating Mutual Security Threats
Looking back upon the past year, President Trump recalled “successfully pressuring the United Nations to withdraw the unfair and biased report against Israel” and instead focusing on “real threats to our security, such as Iran, Hezbollah, and ISIS.”
The Trump Administration has indeed made strides at the UN, where Ambassador Nikki Haley is fighting for Israel. Last October, Donald Trump called the UN resolution that erased the Jewish connection to Jerusalem a “one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city” and “further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias” at the United Nations.
Zell says that looking forward, the President must continue to focus on mutual threats to global security, such as “figuring out who is going to fill the vacuum once ISIS is gone,” “support Israeli initiatives to reduce tensions on the northern frontier,” “scrap this agreement with the Iranians,” and “continue to take a forceful policy vis-à-vis the North Korean leaders and the non-proliferation principle.”
On Iran, Zell echoed Trump’s concern, both in relation to ISIS and Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border. Zell expressed concern over the role of National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, not known as a friend of Israel, and hopes that President Trump “follows his instincts that he expressed during the campaign and keeps Israel’s security as his foremost concern as he mentioned in his Rosh Hashanah message to the conference call.”
Zell expects that in the coming year, the president will continue to work with Israel and other American allies to reduce threats to world stability and peace by dismantling the Iranian nuclear deal. “Trump said it’s the worst deal he’d ever seen and we know that the Iranians, even though they may not be pursuing a nuclear program in Iran, are pursuing it elsewhere, particularly in North Korea, and this raises security concerns to Israel, the United States, and to rest of world as we’ve seen in recent weeks.”