Trump’s vision for Israel and how far the Jewish people have come

Trump’s vision for Israel and how far the Jewish people have come


PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan before it was even announced. The “vision,” however, gives the PA a four-year window to change their mind.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear together at a joint news conference to discuss a new Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S./ (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)

I sat in awe in the august East Room of the White House as President Donald Trump stood alongside Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu and unveiled a “Peace to Prosperity” vision for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. The plan was not a dictate, but rather a framework by which the US hopes it can entice Israel and the Palestinian Authority to come together and negotiate a final status agreement between them.

Israel immediately stated, “If [the Palestinians] agree to abide by all the conditions… in [the] plan, Israel will be there. Israel would be prepared to negotiate peace right away.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan before it was even announced. The “vision,” however, gives the PA a four-year window to change their mind.

The plan, in my opinion, has some good: applying Israeli law over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and the Jordan Valley. The plan, in my opinion, also has some not so good: giving the Palestinians the outlines, including a map, of a contiguous potential state with a capital in a part of eastern Jerusalem without even requiring them to take a seat at the negotiating table.

But before we all dive into the details of the plan and debate whether we think it is a good step forward or not, it is absolutely imperative that we take a moment to recognize and absorb the enormity of the moment. What happened inside the East Room was a recognition of how far we have come as Jews in America, and how the US-Israel relationship has flourished during this president’s administration.

As I walked into the East Room, I was excited to see that the room was filled with leaders from the Jewish community across the nation, political leaders, including my governor Ron Desantis, US senators, congressional representatives, state legislators, and even leaders from the Christian community, including Pastor John Hagee. Also among those who attended were ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.

We welcomed Trump and Netanyahu, who stood side-by-side forcefully and confidently at the podium, as Trump made several statements of note.

“ON MY first trip overseas as president, I visited the Holy Land of Israel,” he said. “I was deeply moved and amazed by what this small country had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds and never-ending threats. The State of Israel comprises only a miniscule amount of land in the Middle East, and yet it has become a thriving center of democracy and of ancient culture and commerce. Israel is a light unto the world. The hearts and history of our people are woven together.”

In this room, at this moment in time, the American Jewish community was welcomed into the White House with open arms and with an unprecedented warmth – not just in word, but also in deed. Even if the unveiling of the plan left some difficult questions unanswered, the plan undoubtedly attempts to tackle, rather than ignore, the most significant issues of the region.

It recognizes the reality that the Jewish people are not leaving the Land of Israel, and that the State of Israel cannot be asked to make any concessions that would compromise its ability to defend itself. Importantly, this proposal seeks to break the parties away from the conscripts of the failed Oslo Accords, and the limbo in which Israel and the Palestinians have been living ever since.

This is a new day and a new path forward. Although the path is long, and there is no real hope that the Palestinians will negotiate on the basis of this (or any) deal, Israel and the Palestinian people now have a new road to walk down if they so choose – a realistic and safe road that gives both peoples a new vision and a new direction.

Just this week we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The difference between the status of the American Jewish community today and 75 years ago cannot be overstated. Then, while Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, the American Jewish community made many well-documented attempts to seek the assistance of and intervention from the United States.

In 1944, the United States rejected several appeals to bomb the railroads leading to Auschwitz. The State Department sat on its hands as Jewish refugees sought to come to the land of the free. President Roosevelt was even made aware of the systematic, mass murder of Jews taking place, and took no action for over one year.

Of course, and thankfully, the US later played a vital role in liberating concentration camps, including Buchenwald in Germany in April 1945.
THE SPECIAL relationship between the United States and the State of Israel began immediately after David Ben-Gurion declared a new State of Israel, when president Truman recognized the Jewish state on that same date. The relationship has expanded over the years but it hasn’t been without its challenges.

In 1982, for instance, the Reagan administration asked Congress to increase its already significant military aid to Israel and Egypt. Later that year, prime minister Menachem Begin visited Capitol Hill for hearings related to the proposed aid package and Israel’s policies.

The hearing was described by a US senator in a New York Times article this way: “I’ve never seen such an angry session with a foreign head of state.”
When then-senator Joe Biden threatened Begin with cutting off US aid to Israel, Begin responded forcefully, “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees!”

While Begin’s strong and poignant words remain a source of pride for Jews around the world, the exchange reflected the great tension between the nations at that time.

Today is different. Whether you believe the Trump vision is positive or not, we must recognize and celebrate how far we have come as a people, both in America and around the world. This, of course, is something we cannot take for granted.

It is beyond dispute that there are certain members of the American political establishment who have taken an aggressive and hostile position vis-à-vis Israel, but it is also beyond dispute that today the relationship between the US government and Israel is as strong as it has ever been.
In a time where we American Jews appropriately expend much of our energy in combating the meteoric rise of antisemitism and antisemitic attacks on our streets and in our synagogues, we take a moment to recognize that we have taken great strides in the United States: that we are welcomed with open arms in the halls of Congress and the White House alike; and that our eternal Jewish homeland, Israel, is respected by the leaders of the world’s most powerful nation.

The feeling in the White House was one of joy and pride about where we are as the Jewish people, and the status which Israel has earned in the corridors of power in Washington, DC.

While Trump’s plan has just been unveiled, there is no question that the work has just begun. The Jewish people and Israel must continue to walk with pride and strength, because it is only with these characteristics that we can continue to flourish as a people.

The writer is mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gabegroisman or Facebook at

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