politics to go

Chanukah to Chanukah. It’s a different kind of year


On the sixth day of Chanukah, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) attempted to reverse President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley exercised the U.S. veto and quashed the resolution.

Last year, just before the first day of Chanukah, there was a different UNSC vote. On Friday afternoon Dec. 23, the anti-Israel team of Barack Obama and John Kerry directed their ambassador, Samantha Power, to abstain when the UNSC’s anti-Israel Resolution 2334 came to a vote rather than veto it. Since the abstention allowed the resolution to pass, President Obama’s action had the same effect if it itself cast an anti-Israel vote.

Not only did that Obama-directed action give the Palestinians a free pass to continue to avoid negotiations, it “locked” Israel into the 1948 Armistice line that declares Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem “occupied” Palestinian land. As Security Council resolutions create international law, the Jewish state’s presence in East Jerusalem, commonly known as the “Jewish Quarter,” became illegal. This absurd action ignored the fact Jews have been living in the “Jewish Quarter” since the time of King David, except for the period of 1948 to 1967 when Jordan kicked out the Jews and destroyed many Jewish holy sites there.

The Obama-directed vote was not a surprise; his eight years in the White House showed him to be the most anti-Israel president since the modern state of Israel was created in 1948.

Similarly, President Trump’s veto in the UNSC, and more importantly his announcement about Jerusalem that triggered it, doesn’t elicit surprise. If he continues in the direction shown during his first year in the White House, his will be most pro-Israel presidency since 1948.

Trump was in office for less than three weeks when he began to show there was a new Middle East sheriff in town. He released a statement in February that said:

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

The money phrase in that statement is “we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace”

It cannot be emphasized enough; that was the first time any president declared that the settlements were not an impediment to peace. Even Bush #43, who cut a deal with Ariel Sharon that he wouldn’t complain about new construction in existing communities as long as it didn’t involve new land, did not go as far as saying those communities weren’t an impediment to peace.

Obama felt so strongly settlements were an impediment to peace that he made it a bigger issue than the Palestinians did, and in 2009 broke an agreement between Israel and the U.S. that allowed Israel to build in existing settlements as long as no new land was taken.

Last, Nikki Haley put the UN on notice about the Jewish state:

“I’m here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias. We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel. Instead, we will push for action on the real threats we face in the Middle East. … It is the UN’s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change. The United States will not hesitate to speak out against these biases in defense of our friend and ally, Israel.”

In May 2017, President Trump did something else no American president had done before, he visited Israel as part of his first trip outside the country since he took office. Additionally, Trump’s commute from Riyadh, the first country of his Middle East trip visit was the first publicly reported airplane trip directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

During his trip, Trump visited the old city of Jerusalem, he went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is recognized by Christians as the place where Jesus was Crucified. From there he walked to the Kotel, the Western retaining wall for the Temple Mount, just below the holiest spot in all of Judaism. No other American president had visited the Kotel while in office because the visit could be seen as a de facto acceptance of Israel’s control of the holy site.

In another first during his trip, Trump took the opportunity to publicly rebuke Palestinian President Abbas for his support of terrorists and payments to terrorist families:

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.  We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice.  Peace is a choice we must make each day — and the United States is here to help make that dream possible for young Jewish, Christian and Muslim children all across the region.  In so doing, we will all enjoy a safer and brighter future, and a safer and brighter world.”

As the year was drawing to a close the president made his Jerusalem announcement, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Liberal Jews along with many in the mainstream treated the announcement as if it would bring the end of the world. Sadly, there has been some violence, but thankfully not at the predicted levels. Some Journalists who rushed to Jerusalem after Trump’s announcement to report on the major violence are returning home without a story.

On the third day of this year’s Chanukah a White House official was quoted as saying: “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement.”

Wow, that more than doubles down on the President’s Jerusalem Statement. 

Chanukah in 2016 was melancholy, as in one of his last acts as President Obama took the opportunity to stab Israel in the back one last time. But this year is much different.

By Chanukah 2017, President Trump has kept his campaign promises by executing policies showing him to be a true friend of Israel.

From Chanukah to Chanukah, what a difference a year makes.