At the conclusion of his second term as President, there are many areas of the world to which President Obama could have directed his attention. From Chinese and Russian cyber-warfare to the human rights catastrophe taking place in Syria, the world doesn’t lack opportunities for leadership from the leader of the free world. So where did the president set his sights? Squarely on Israel, in order to orchestrate one last shot at the only democracy in the Middle East.
During the election this past fall, I proposed writing, as a conservative Republican, about why I felt that for Israel, having the White House filled by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be better than businessman Donald Trump. I was disheartened by the overwhelming support I was seeing for Trump from my Orthodox friends. When I asked many of them how they could back a philandering misogynist with a cadre of “alt-right” followers, they answered almost universally: Israel.
After the pre-Hanukkah actions of the Obama administration at the United Nations, I am glad I never wrote such a piece. My Orthodox Trump-voting friends were right, and I was wrong: it appears on Israel, Donald Trump is already a better friend to the Jewish State than his Democratic counterparts have or would have been. Suddenly, the Western Wall has been declared occupied territory — an apparent break with decades of U.S. policy.
On Israel, there have been other encouraging signs from Trump for politically conservative Jews as well. While many on the Left, including JStreet and company, may be horrified at the appointment of the new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, those of us on the right side of the aisle are more than pleased with the announcement. Writing for the New York Post, its Op-Ed editor (and my husband) Seth Mandel said:
There’s something oddly comforting about the unhinged freakout greeting President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel… David Friedman, a partner at a major law firm and adviser to Trump on Israel issues, is a genuine outsider who appears ready to shake up the State Department’s notorious suspicion toward Israel. And it’s giving the left fits.
The liberal meltdown over Friedman taking the position is in itself an encouraging sign; all the right people (in our view) are up in arms. Whenever JStreet is upset, it’s generally good news for rightwing Zionists like myself.
Trump’s longtime lawyer and an Orthodox Jew, Jason Dov Greenblatt, has been named as the special representative for international negotiations for Mideast peace, according to the Wall Street Journal. Greenblatt is a committed Zionist, unapologetic about his views on the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. After eight years of quiet and sometimes overt hostility from not just the President, but also his most senior advisors, it’s nice to know as a conservative friend of Israel that there’s someone with the ear of the President who views suicide attacks and stabbings to be a bigger threat to peace than a few buildings in towns where we have friends and some family. These areas, which their opponents call “settlements” are home to people we love and respect, and the knowledge that senior members of the new administration have donated their time and money to making them better places to live for the Jews there is a comfort, not a source of concern.
While the United States was working on a resolution that deemed the suburbs of Jerusalem illegal, one of those suburbs — the town of Efrat — had bigger problems on its hands. On Friday before the Sabbath, a terrorist stabbed a man in the street, with no provocation beyond the Jewishness of the victim. In the twisted world in which we live, it seems to me that building a home is a bigger crime to those at the United Nations than stabbing a father in the street. A neighbor of the victim wrote a [must-read piece] (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/twice-stabbed/) for the Times of Israel after the stabbing which encapsulated not just his view of the week, but of many other, “Personally, I feel we as a collective were stabbed in the back twice.”
Writing on Facebook after the UN vote, a fellow adamant non-Trump voting friend wrote “Well, Obama. You did it. You made me feel grateful that Trump will be president. What a world.” Why might we feel grateful? Look no further than the President-elect’s tweet on the matter:
As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016
Already as far as Israel is concerned, things are different. This week the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz wrote about the seismic shift the Netanyahu government will be undertaking post-U.N. resolution. The reason Netanyahu feels comfortable making this stand isn’t because this move by the U.N. is that egregious; it’s because he knows that in less than a month, the United States will have his back for the first time in almost a decade. That’s what many Orthodox Jewish voters (not to mention Christian Zionists) saw in him; and understood the importance for the region of electing an unapologetic friend of Israel.
Bethany Mandel is a regular columnist for the Forward.