The Election Is Over: What Will Trump Do for Israel?

Donald Trump’s approach to Israel and the Middle East remains to be seen [AFP]

Marc Zell, Chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, told Arutz Sheva Thursday that President-Elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State will have to “clean house” in the State Department, in order to fulfill Trump’s pledge of relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. According to Zell, the State Department is currently “filled with Arab supporters.” 

“In order to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, you need to neutralize these people – which means firing them,” Zell said. “Only people like Giuliani and Bolton [two of the main candidates for Secretary of State] are able to do that.” Zell believes Mitt Romney, another primary contender for the SCOTUS position, is unlikely to receive it, due to his harsh criticism of Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud” during the presidential campaign.

“At present, there are officials in the State Department who are working to undermine this [move],” Zell said. “In Washington there are some 4,000 political appointments that need to be filled, including in the State Department, and the president has the right to fire [those remaining from the past administration].”

Trump has garnered the support of many American Jews, particularly in the Orthodox community, for his perceived pro-Israel stance, and for pledging to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something previous presidents have promised but never delivered on. In September, Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he would “recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.” Many American Jews viewed Trump as a decidedly pro-Israel alternative to rival Hillary Clinton, whose stance on Israel was viewed as a perpetuation of the Obama administration’s frigid policies. As a result, many were willing to overlook Trump’s more questionable behavior and bellicose rhetoric on the campaign trail. Trump’s Jewish daughter and son-in-law also garnered him the sympathy of many Jews. 

Yossi Gestetner, the co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council and a political analyst, told Tablet in September that, in contrast to Clinton, Trump “has proudly met with visibly Jewish people this campaign season and given exclusive interviews to Jewish-audience publications too while Hillary largely—if not fully—avoids this community. That’s a reason for concern to many voters.” Lakewood-based Rabbi Yitzchok Feldheim told Tablet that for him, Trump is “fighting a battle that we have felt for a long time” against the secularist worldview, which Feldman believes represents “a world without any beauty and any pride and any happiness.”

Tablet also cited a 2013 Pew survey, Portrait of Jewish Americans, which found that 56% of Orthodox Jews identify as Republican, while 36% identify as Democratic.

In an October op-ed outlining why Orthodox Jews would be likely to support Trump over Clinton, political scientist Dr. Amiel Ungar noted that Trump “has pledged a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – meaning no expunging of the word “Israel” on a U.S. passport or “Jerusalem, Israel” for the location of Obama’s eulogy for Shimon Peres. A united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty would rightly shatter the expectation of an eventual return to the 1949 Armistice lines and open the way for their major rectification.”

While Trump may have the backing of many in the Orthodox community, his campaign is overshadowed by the specter of enthusiastic support from the KKK and its spokesman David Duke, and Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan, a vociferous enemy of Jews and Israel. Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, the former chief executive Breitbart, as his chief strategist, has also raised alarm bells in the Jewish community. Orthodox Jews suffered for eight years through a presidential administration that was at best passive-aggressive towards the Jewish state. Now, their only option is to hold their breath, hoping Trump, the candidate they invested so much hope in, will live up to their expectations and undo some of the damage inflicted on the U.S.-Israel relationship by President Barack Obama.

As Trump himself is fond of saying, “I’ll keep you in suspense.” 

12/02/2016 7:00 AM by Menachem Rephun

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