Right from wrong: True (red, white and) blue friends

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo [L] and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [R] at the Western Wall  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo [L] and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [R] at the Western Wall
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated his administration’s deep friendship with the Jewish State.
“The Israeli people can have confidence that [US] President [Donald] Trump will maintain this close bond, [which] he sent me here to build upon,” Pompeo stressed, before going on to wish Netanyahu a happy Purim, “a commemoration of when Queen Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction centuries ago.”
It was the perfect segue to his next point.
“I remember when [Netanyahu] addressed a joint session of Congress right before Purim… four years ago,” he said. “On that day, [he] spoke about the grave threat the Jewish people face… from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which seeks the absolute destruction and annihilation of Israel.”
He continued: “The ayatollahs have spent four decades spewing hatred, supporting terrorist violence and pursuing nuclear weapons for a war against a neighbor that wishes nothing more than to live in peace. The ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] has declared that the annihilation and destruction of Israel is his primary goal. With such threats – a daily reality of Israeli life – we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support the right to defend yourself. Under the 10-year MOU that we signed in 2016, we provide $3.8 billion annually for security assistance for Israel. And with Israel threatened by rockets and missiles from Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, we are proud to deploy the THAD anti-missile batteries here.”
Pompeo went on to address the “odious prejudice” of Jew-hatred.
“With the dark wave of antisemitism rising in Europe and in the United States, all nations – especially those in the West – must go to the barricades against bigotry,” he said. “Our challenge is especially urgent as the hot rhetoric of prejudice cloaks itself in the language of the academy. Or diplomacy. Or of public policy. Sadly, we in the United States have seen antisemitic language uttered even in the great halls of our own Capitol. This should not be.”
Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, the international and local media reported cynically on his imminent visit – part of a five-day trip to the Middle East, which he kicked off in Kuwait – as though its key purpose was to bolster a “beleaguered” Netanyahu ahead of the April 9 Knesset elections. To dispel this myth, Pompeo told reporters on his flight to the region, “I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have. Leaders will change in both countries over time. That relationship matters no matter who the leaders are.”
He was right, though his statement brings to mind a quip made by comedian Jay Leno in 2014, when he hosted the first Genesis Prize ceremony in Jerusalem: “[US] President [Barack] Obama has declared the month of May Jewish American Heritage Month. He is calling it an opportunity to renew our ‘unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel.’ And he knows it’s unbreakable, because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.”
As with all successful jokes, this one elicited guffaws from the audience because of the sad truth that it caricatured.
Less funny, yet equally undeniable, is the fact that no push from Trump or his inner circle will help Netanyahu’s showing at the ballot box. Indeed, the “anybody but Bibi” camp is none too fond of Trump either.
The Israeli Left – which blames Netanyahu for Palestinian terrorism, berates him for “fear-mongering” about Iran and accuses him of caring only about holding on for dear life to his seat at the expense of the public’s personal safety, health and welfare – views him and Trump as two peas in a corrupt pod.
Dissatisfied Israelis to the right of Netanyahu, on the other hand, consider him too weak in the face of terrorism, and fear that he will succumb to American pressure to make “painful concessions” to the Palestinians when Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is unveiled. But unlike their left-wing counterparts, they need Netanyahu to win the election in order to have their ideology represented in the next government.
These are the Israelis who championed Trump’s election and proceeded to cheer his policies – such as moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and canceling the nuclear deal with Iran – up until the moment that he announced he was forging a peace plan. Oops.
Pompeo had no choice but to bring this up at Wednesday’s press conference, of course. Being America’s top diplomat will do that.
“It’s fundamentally our view that this region needs a candid dialogue and open exchanges of ideas,” he said. “Especially as we seek to make progress towards a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
This morsel, in the midst of an otherwise reassuring statement, undoubtedly stood out like a sore thumb to those voters who don’t trust Netanyahu to nix any document emerging from the Trump White House. Even if it spells suicide for Israel.
Ironically, then, neither the anti-Netanyahu Left nor the disgruntled Right is influenced by Pompeo’s visit, or by next week’s meeting in Washington between the US president and Israeli prime minister. So much for so-called “American interference” in the election.
The good news is that the Left is wrong and the Right can relax.
The Palestinian leaders in both Ramallah and Gaza have made it crystal clear that they have no intention of negotiating a deal with Israel. You know, the Jewish State that they are on a mission to destroy. Nor have they been willing to give Washington the time of day – something that Pompeo alluded to before arriving in the region. When asked why he would not be meeting with Palestinian Authority officials during his trip, he replied, “They’d have to want to talk to us.”
Good luck with that.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared in Cairo in January that he would not end his life “as a traitor,” adding, “The doors are closed to the US. As long as it does not retract its decisions against the Palestinian people, no Palestinian should meet with the American leadership, no matter what their role is.”
Thankfully, the Trump administration has not responded to the snub by pandering. On the contrary, it has consistently been calling the Palestinians to task for committing and rewarding terrorism, while unequivocally defending all Israeli retaliatory actions.
A few recent examples should put to rest any doubt that skeptics who have been treating Trump’s peace plan, the contents of which are still unknown, as if it constitutes some kind of price being exacted on Israel for the embassy move.
In its annual global human rights report, released last week, the US State Department significantly removed the word “occupied” to describe the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.
On Monday, Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, took to Twitter to rail against the “shameless, persistent and unfair anti-Israel bias” of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose latest report chastises the Jewish State for having “failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians.” You know, the ones who have been spending the last year violently attacking Israelis, breaching the Gaza border fence and flying explosive-laden balloons into kindergartens as part of the “Great March of Return” riots.
Also on Monday, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted that he was “heartbroken” about the Palestinian terrorist attack near Ariel on March 17, in which 19-year-old IDF St. Sgt. Gal Keidan and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, the 47-year-old father of 12, were murdered.
“Hamas, as usual, is celebrating,” he wrote.” And Abu Mazen [Abbas], who properly joined with all civilized people in condemning the terrorist attack [on Muslims] in Christchurch, is now deafening in his silence.
Israelis attacking Palestinians are condemned, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli government. Palestinians attacking Israelis are celebrated, compensated and venerated by the PA leadership and/or Hamas. And therein lies the problem.”
Greenblatt echoed this sentiment on Wednesday, after Abbas’s henchmen went beyond simply ignoring the slaughter.
“As Israel mourns two victims who were murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian terrorist and another victim is recuperating from this attack,” he tweeted, “Fatah glorifies the terrorist as ‘the perfect person,’ ‘heroic’ and the ‘Rambo of Palestine.’ What more need I say?!?!”
The only additional thing to be said is that the two Fajr-5 rockets that were launched from Gaza into Tel Aviv last Thursday night – “by accident,” according to Hamas – were made in Iran. And Trump’s team knows it.
The concern that Israel will be coerced into a dangerous agreement with an entity bent on its destruction, and subsequently held responsible for its fallout, is therefore premature and unwarranted.