(February 3, 2020 / JNS) In this week’s Torah portion, Moses displayed great courage by standing up to Pharaoh, the leader of the world’s greatest nation at the time, who insisted on not letting the Jewish people go despite Egypt suffering plague after plague. But Moses never got the reward he so desired: entering the promised land.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arguably fared much better.
In May 2011, Netanyahu stood up to the leader of the world’s greatest empire at the time, Barack Obama, as he attempted to impose a harsh diplomatic plan upon Israel based on its pre-1967 borders. Obama unveiled the plan while Netanyahu was en route to Washington, in the ultimate ambush.
Netanyahu’s reward came on Jan. 28, when Obama’s successor, U.S. President Donald Trump, unveiled a peace plan that Netanyahu called “the opportunity of the century.”
American Jewish leaders should recognize what a gift President Trump has given Israel and the Jewish people, and express appropriate gratitude.
Instead of unveiling a fait accompli on the eve of a visit by the Israeli prime minister, without listening to him first, the president first listened not only to Netanyahu but also to the leader of his main political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
And instead of a plan calling for Israel to withdraw from nearly all of what are called settlements, under Trump’s plan Israel will be able to keep almost all of them and annex sizable portions of Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of the Jewish people.
Instead of a plan that calls for Israel to withdraw from land first in hopes that the Palestinians will concede on the refugee issue afterward, this plan calls for Israel to apply Israeli law to its land first and only gives the Palestinians a state later on, if they accept conditions that they are very unlikely to accept, like demilitarizing Gaza.
Instead of sending a message to the world that America is unhappy with Israel and inviting other countries to pressure the Jewish state, President Trump has sent a message to the world that the path to Washington goes through Jerusalem.
That message has been heard loud and clear across the globe. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said he initially expected four or five leaders to come to Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The fact that 45 ended up coming is a testament to the positive atmosphere emanating from the White House.
The best evidence of that is that the British royal family had boycotted Israel for seven decades, but there was Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, coming to Jerusalem just ahead of Brexit, which will leave the United Kingdom needing the United States more than ever.
In Trump’s plan, Israel will retain control over its capital: an undivided Jerusalem. Not only Obama but also Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush tried to get Israel to relinquish parts of the historic Old City. A plan worked out while Bush was president even called for internationalizing the Old City under the leadership of five countries, including a new Palestinian state, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Trump’s plan is, of course, not perfect. It would create an inevitably dangerous Palestinian state and require Israel to give up more territory, territory that God gave to Abraham for the Jewish people. Even if these stages never arrive due to the intransigence of Palestinian leaders, merely accepting these terms is a very painful concession on Israel’s part.
But this plan is so much better than all of its predecessors that Israel and American Jewish groups must show proper appreciation. Both Netanyahu and Gantz did that before, during and after their meetings with Trump, reflecting the views of the consensus of the people of Israel.
Why have American Jewish groups not done the same? Even those that avoid U.S. and Israeli politics must realize how far Israel has come over the past decade.
The time has come for American Jewish groups to wake up and smell the positivity, and to thank Trump.
As the Hebrew saying goes, we have overcome Pharaoh, so we can overcome this. Even the complacency and indifference of too many American Jews in the face of the reward received from the most pro-Israel U.S. president ever can and must be overcome.
Martin Oliner is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency.
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