By Zvulun Orlev
The beginning of Donald Trump’s term as President of the United States leaves us with more questions than definitive statements. We do not know what his policies will be with respect to many issues (and quite possibly neither does he). Is his speech the same as the dictates of his heart? Will his declarations before he was chosen be fulfilled? Will he be able to stand up against strong institutionalized professionals in his own administration?
The President of the United States has a profound influence on the entire world in general and on Israel in particular. The vital importance to us of the support by the United States in the areas of international policies, security, and economics is an open secret. We managed to get through the Obama era in terms of security and economic aid, and we are right to show our appreciation for that, but in the international arena we experienced eight tough years which caused us great harm (Obama’s Cairo speech, the Iranian nuclear deal, a freeze on construction in Yehuda and the Shomron, the failure to veto UN resolution 2334).
When the results of the elections were announced, a wave of joy spread through our land, and rightly so, as if a rightist Zionistic lover of Zion had been elected. We can certainly be happy about such declarations as the intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem, no objections to continued construction in Yehuda and the Shomron, and Trump’s appointment of many assistants who strongly support Israel. On the political side, we can certainly be optimistic about the issue of settlements in Yehuda and the Shomron, future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and the Iranian problem.
However, the questions which we raised above mean that we must proceed with caution and limit our exaggerated enthusiasm. National decisions should be a result of thorough discussions by the security cabinet and the government, and we must not be dragged into hastily raising proposals for laws whose sole purpose will be local electoral gains. We must prevent a competition among the ministers and the MK’s to see who will be the first to propose laws that exploit President Trump’s actions for our advantage. Nobody knows better than I how exciting it can be for a politician to jump ahead, to stand out, to make populist proposals, and even to leak information, all in order to be viewed favorably by the public.
Only if we act with political maturity is there any chance that the Trump era will be an opportunity to advance a national rightist agenda. Moderation is the main ingredient of the recipe for cooperation with the new President. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that he works for us and will dance to our tunes. If we surprise him with facts on the ground they may come right back to us as a boomerang. Only if we can learn to behave in his manner and not in our way will we be able to achieve our important goals.
Establishing Goals and Priorities
There is no fire that must be put out immediately! Let the cabinet and the government hold serious discussions on national strategy and what our tactics should be, and about our national priorities. Should extending our sovereignty to Maaleh Adumim and its surroundings be our first priority, or should we start with the Jordan Valley? Or, should we perhaps first make a strong effort to revoke the recent UN resolution against our settlements? Is there a need for a concerted strong international movement, led by the United States, against the BDS movement? Perhaps the greatest effort should be the worldwide struggle against terrorism. Should we act to force the Palestinian Authority to stop its hypocrisy in paying salaries to the families of terrorists and honoring them by naming streets for them? Should we fight the wild incitement against Israel by the Palestinians? These are only some of our important goals.
After we have decided on a strategic policy, we can make the effort to convince the President and his friends in the new administration to join us in our efforts. We can argue, we can apply legitimate pressure, and we can try to convince them in a friendly way. Perhaps we will not succeed in all of our goals and in the end we will be forced to compromise in some matters. But issues where we agree should be made into binding laws in the United States, either through passing laws in the Congress or by executive order. It is very important to guarantee stability for later administrations.
I must admit that I have a fear that our democratic behavior at times crosses over into a manner that is uncontrolled and irresponsible. Because of personal struggles and party politics, we sometimes tend to miss out on great opportunities. I hope this time to be pleasantly surprised and to be proved wrong. I hope that in this case the nation will take charge and force its leaders to act in a responsible way. With good planning, we should make not only war but also government policy, diplomacy, and international negotiations. (See Mishlei 20:18.)
With G-d’s help we can succeed.