Listening to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s address to the Knesset was a euphoric experience. Pence is a devout evangelical Christian who regards America’s religious commitment as a crucial component of the administration’s policy. He genuinely believes that God will bless those who promote the welfare of Israel and the Jewish people.
President Donald Trump’s deputy gave an address affirming the United States’ love of Israel and vindicating the Jewish people’s Zionist vision based on our biblical and historical vision and the spiritual bonds we share.
He stressed that the administration still sought to facilitate a peace settlement but asserted that ultimately, the parties must negotiate directly with each other. He reiterated Trump’s warning that if the Palestinians refused to negotiate with Israel, Abbas would not succeed with such behavior. As Trump pointed out, the days of free lunches are over and the Palestinians will no longer be able to take for granted that the billions of dollars of U.S. aid would continue pouring in to support them. More importantly, the entire UNRWA operation was being reviewed on the supposition that vast funds were being channeled into a bottomless pit which was financing incitement against Israel and no effort had been made to integrate the ever-growing number of refugees and their descendants – but instead they had been exploited as a vehicle with which to destroy Israel.
The policy of the Trump administration as expressed by Pence is a stark contrast to the Barack Obama era, when at best Israel and the Palestinians were portrayed in terms of moral equivalence, even as Abbas openly flaunted his incitement by praising and rewarding killers and their families – an abomination simply ignored by the U.S.
Pence declared that “we stand with Israel because we believe your cause is our cause, your values are our values and your fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.”
This was accompanied by pledges of support and renewed commitments by the U.S. to opening a Jerusalem embassy next year.
He also guaranteed that the U.S. would never acquiesce to the “disaster” of a nuclear-armed Iran.
No American leader has ever spoken to or about Israel in this manner. It signaled the end, at least for the time being, of the daylight Obama created between the U.S. and Israel. It was thus apt of Pence to recite the blessing “shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigi’anu lazman hazeh,” thanking God for granting us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this occasion.
Setting aside the Joint Arab List MKs who were ejected from the Knesset after trying to provoke an incident with the vice president and Meretz representatives who remained seated, almost the entire Knesset unanimously cheered him and provided repeated standing ovations. Aside from the visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, it was the first real instance of a display of near-total unity in the Knesset toward a foreign statesman since the division of the nation over the Oslo Accords.
Throughout the nation, the overwhelming majority are cautiously optimistic about the new administration’s policy toward Israel and especially the visit of Pence.
Not so among American Jewry, where polls suggest that 42% (initially including Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs) opposed Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, considering it “premature” and harmful to the peace process. That 70% voted against Trump is no excuse for such behavior, which amounts to a display of contempt for Israel’s interests.
Their attitude remained unchanged even after Abbas refused to meet Pence and made it clear that he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In a series of feral anti-Semitic speeches, Abbas cursed the Balfour Declaration, warned of massive terror attacks and lashed out against Trump, insisting that he would not have any future dealings with the administration or Israel until the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was reversed. Trump responded that Jerusalem was off the table. Needless to say, to the outrage of the delusional Left, Pence also failed to describe the duplicitous Abbas as a “peace partner.”
The reaction of much of the Israeli media was astonishing. With the exception of Israel Hayom, most of the media abounded with columns minimizing and mocking Pence’s address.
Ha’aretz, which despises the Trump administration, described Pence’s speech as “bombast” and accused him of promoting messianic evangelical Zionism and being more Zionist than Israelis.
The Jerusalem Post’s political correspondent (in contrast to Herb Keinan’s excellent analysis) dismissed the importance of the Pence visit, comparing it to a recent trip by comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
Another Jerusalem Post columnist claimed that Trump, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and now Pence had given Israel a “get out of jail free” card which would encourage intransigence among Israelis and not make them “take the initiative and search for ways to move forward.”
One might ask those calling on Israel to “move forward” to explain what they mean. The implication is that the worse Abbas becomes, the more concessions we should provide. In other words, continue appeasing those seeking our destruction.
Instead of commending Pence for distinguishing between good and evil, the Israeli media condemned him for casting all the blame on the Palestinians and none on Israel. While it is undeniable that on occasion Israel has made mistakes, to suggest that both parties are equally at fault and morally equivalent is utter distortion.
The reality is that for the first time since the creation of the state, we have an American leadership willing to tell the truth.
They have ceased repeating the mantra of equivalence between those striving for peace and separation and those inciting to bloodshed and annihilation.
Above all, for the first time we have an administration distinguishing between good and evil and willing to expose the evil emanating from the Palestinians and their allies.
This is truly a sea change and we should unite to take advantage of this situation which, given the turbulence of American politics, cannot be guaranteed to last forever.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom