JOE FRAGER (left), Pete Hegseth (center) and Paul Brody pose at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant all came to Jerusalem, and even stayed in hotels next to one another, albeit at different times. Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and veteran of the war in Iraq, referenced this historical American connection to Jerusalem in a press conference at The King David Hotel in Jerusalem Tuesday.
“I come here as an individual, veteran, American, invested in the future of the free world, our country and Israel. Israel is indispensable for the future of the West and human freedom. Any erosion of that alliance [with the US] undercuts the bedrock of principles we were founded on,” he said.
The event was hosted by Joe Frager and Paul Brody, who hoped to take Hegseth around Israel and the West Bank to show him security issues facing the country.
Hegseth, who served two deployments in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, as well as in Afghanistan in 2011-2012, says he fears America’s unique role in the world is at risk of declining.
In Jerusalem, he was “struck by the pervasive sense of purpose which permeates Israel and its people who understand the special nature of its founding and defense.” He argued that the values Israel has, such as recognizing the need for a “collective defense” and having a strong culture and economy, was something the US could learn from.
He drew a connection between the struggles Israel faces and those he identified in his recent book, In the Arena, which takes a line from a Teddy Roosevelt speech as its opener.
“Great republics are not about good leaders but good citizens, willingness to work, fight and have large healthy families for demographics.
We need faith and character and must believe in something bigger than yourself,” Hegseth told the audience at the King David.
Looking back on his experience doing a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, he noted the “technocratic elite” in the US prefer fighting “faceless enemies such as climate change” than speaking out about the threat of Islamic State and terrorism.
Hillary Clinton, he said, will perpetuate US President Barack Obama’s policies. “America doesn’t want or trust Clinton, the Left has made this election a referendum on Trump.”
Hegseth argued that Americans like himself feel the election is not a question of Left versus Right, but of whether the US will be more like Europe with open borders and less sovereignty.
This would represent a dangerous shift away from support for Israel.
The attendees, mostly from more right-leaning Jewish media, agreed with Hegseth that there was a weakening of support for Israel.
One questioner admonished the speaker that Americans are tired of foreign wars, but Hegseth was insistent that Americans have to be willing to shoulder the burden. “Those like me went multiple times to confront realities of Islamic terror [but ended up with] outcomes in Iraq and Syria that we didn’t want them to be,” said Hegseth.
He sees an emboldened Bashar Assad in Syria, Iranian influence in Baghdad and an Obama who is “allergic” to commitment to Iraq.
“You have to utterly crush and defeat ISIS… ruthlessly wage war against it…you have to understand the ideological nature of the enemy.”