WASHINGTON—Char Bar is the only place in Washington, D.C., where you can get a kosher burger. This is quite surprising. One would think that the beating heart of American politics, and perhaps global politics, would have more kosher places.
The Char Bar, I was told, has never been more popular than under President Donald Trump, who brought with him to Washington many kippah-wearing, or simply observant, Jews, including members of his peace team, who have worked for months and years on the “deal of the century” rolled out in the East Room of the White House last Tuesday. I saw a number of them sitting at the tables next to me when I dined at the Char Bar last week.
People ask why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so enthused over the map Trump revealed last week. They dismiss the peace plan, saying it is nothing more than a proposal. But they have forgotten that in the Middle East, perception is just as important as reality. In fact, in the Middle East, perception creates reality in many cases. Just like the Jewish state was created on Rothschild Blvd. in Tel Aviv when it declared independence in 1948, so was the new Israel declared on Pennsylvania Avenue last week. This new Israel can be like any other nation and decide for itself where its laws can be applied.
Critics of the plan are unwilling to accept that there is a new sheriff in town and that he will likely stay on until January 2025. They have been unwilling to accept the great things he has done for us: recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; moving the embassy there; recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli; withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal (and ending the artificial distinction of the ayatollahs from the so-called moderates in Tehran); scrapping the definition of Israeli settlements as illegal; defunding UNRWA, the United Nations agency that deals with Palestinian refugees; imposing financial sanctions on the Palestinian Authority; and of course, assassinating Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
And all this only in his first three years as president, and without mentioning his heroic efforts to shield Israel from attacks in international forums (including by means of withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]).
A Ben-Gurion moment
It turns out that the Trump-Netanyahu critics are stuck somewhere in the 1990s. They have gotten used to the old formula that Israel is the only one that makes concessions. Trump has now turned this on its head and created a new formula. As U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, the new U.S. plan is front-loaded with benefits to Israel, whereas the Palestinians have to wait four years for a state, which will be contingent on disarming terrorist organizations.
“This is a pro-Israel plan by historical standards,” rightfully declared The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial. The New York Times, the same paper that dismissed the prospect of Trump winning the presidency in 2016, was quick to pour cold water on the dozens of pages that detailed the plan’s vision. “A deal that has two elections, rather than Mideast peace, as its focus,” claimed the headline of its analysis piece.
It’s amazing how the United States and Israel have become similar, and how Netanyahu is experiencing the same thing that Trump has had to endure.
Both enjoy widespread popular support and have much to show as leaders, but both have also had to deal with an orchestrated effort to prevent them from doing what they were elected to do.
Last week, with many Jews and evangelicals packing the East Room, both leaders seemed moved by the love they got from the crowd. They realized that they were making history.
Trump’s plan made Israel sovereign on its land, and most importantly, put it in charge of its own destiny. Will the Palestinians accept the plan? Not anytime soon. But they know they are alone this time.
Just like they regret their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan that was embraced by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, so too will they regret rejecting the second Ben-Gurion moment they were presented with on Jan. 28, 2020.
Many on the right are very much against the plan’s call for a Palestinian state. My friend Boaz Haetzni published an op-ed in which he said that “alongside the celebrations on the annexation that has not taken place and the new American position, there are also many dangers lurking in Trump’s plan, including the immediate collapse of the Israeli position, which has now accepted the withdrawal from 70% of Judea and Samaria.” Meanwhile, the left has had a hard time accepting the death of the old formula in which Israel has to make concessions and only then take care of its settlers and security.
What we have to keep in mind is the spirit of the Trump plan: Israel has received a green light from the United States—which wields veto power in the U.N. Security Council—to start treating the plan’s conceptual map as a signed agreement.
Israel may start annexing the areas that are to be part of Israel under the plan, or as an American source told me prior to the plan’s rollout: “Israel can annex the Jordan Valley and build in Judea and Samaria as if it was Tel Aviv.” The Palestinians also get major benefits right up front, including an economic vision that sees some $50 billion invested in their communities. No wonder Netanyahu stressed this point over and over again in his media interviews last week.
Polls can be wrong
But with all due respect to Israel-related news, the big story here in America these days is the race to the White House, which has become a referendum on Trump. The real drama began this week in Iowa.
The main contenders are former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are jostling over who is the best Democrat to run against Trump. Buttigieg currently has a slight lead on Sanders, with 71 percent of precincts reporting.
In national polls, which don’t mean anything but could point to a general trend, Trump has been able to close the gap with the Democratic candidates. In polls taken in the battleground states that will decide the election (states that do not favor any particular party), his voters have remained loyal. In fact, only rarely do Americans vote their presidents out of office.
There is a clear disconnect between the media and the public. The cable networks have been covering Trump’s impeachment trial nonstop, but the viewers have reacted with a big yawn. Not only that, last week Trump managed to show his strength in New Jersey, which he has no chance of actually carrying in November. Despite this being a Democratic stronghold, thousands flocked to his rally there, many of them camping out from day before just so they could watch Trump destroy the Democrats in his 60-minute rally.
A candidate that fails to win in the Iowa caucuses or in the New Hampshire primaries next week will fade from the voters’ radars (that is why former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a media blitz in the Super Tuesday states that vote in March).
Iowa likes to fire the opening shot in the race by sending shock waves across the board. This is what happened in 2004 when John Kerry won out of nowhere, and in 2008, when Barack Obama won despite many predicting that he would fail in white Iowa.
New Hampshire likes to break with Iowa rather than follow its path; it likes to give the victorious candidates a reality check. This is what happened in 2008, when Obama lost big just days after trouncing Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Polls show that Sanders has the momentum going into the New Hampshire primaries.
The White House believes there is a very real chance that the socialist from Vermont will become the Democratic nominee in the summer and create an anti-establishment grassroots movement, very much like Trump did in 2016. Trump is not discounting Sanders, despite polls showing that Bloomberg and Biden would be more competitive against the 45th president in the swing states. Trump knows first-hand that polls can be deceiving.
Boaz Bismuth is editor-in-chief of Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.