Photo Credit: Twitter
Jason Greenblatt-with President-elect Trump

{Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, Emes Ve-Emunah}

I have spent a lot of time agonizing about our country’s choice for the next President. And with good reason. Even though I have tried to rationally explain the reason he won the election, I still can’t figure out how anyone that ran a campaign the way President-elect Trump did could be elected dog catcher… let alone President of the United States. I still keep asking myself, “How is this possible?” And he keeps reinforcing that question daily in my mind with his silly tweets. Which sound like they are coming out of the mind of a spoiled 12 year old!


Not to mention the fact that The President-elect is about as unpredictable as any President-elect has ever been. And the fact that many of his signature campaign promises were clearly un-doable. And will not be carried out. Certainly not in the verbatim way he kept promising they would be during the campaign. And no… Mexico will not pay for any of them.

The only saving grace for me (and it’s a big one) is that his strong support for Israel is genuine. Which he has proven by his choice of 2 key players that will carry out his Middle East policies. Polices largely based on the views expressed by the 2 people he appointed. Both of whom are Orthodox Jews. David Friedman will be the new US ambassador to Israel. He is more right wing than Netanyahu… kind of like Netanyahu’s current education minister, Naftali Bennett. Who rejects a two state solution as does Friedman. (Netanyahu has publicly accepted a 2-state solution, in theory.)

It has just been announced that Jason Dov Greenblatt has just been named to head the newly created post of International Negotiator. Jason – an Orthodox Jew – is also to the right of Netanyahu.

One of the things Trump said during the campaign was that he was going to get involved with the peace process. As much he has indicated how pro-Israel he is, there was some concern about that statement. That ‘process’ has always led to trouble when anyone tried it.  And who got the blame? You guessed it. Israel. Settlements on the West Bank is the root of all Middle East evil. At least that’s what one would think by the constant refrain of past peace negotiators. (Until the truth finally came out after Arafat rejected Oslo. Clinton knew who to blame). The concern I had is that the same thing might happen with Trump if he tries what other have failed at – and  that he too would blame Israel if he failed. I thought – the last thing Israel needs is a vindictive Trump!

But that is not the way I see things panning out now.  In light of the new position he created and the person he chose to head it I am convinced he will indeed try to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. There is little question in my mind that the man who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ won’t try and make the deal of his life.  Nor is there any doubt about who he will blame if it doesn’t work out. He has already indicated that it is Palestinian violence against Israel that is to blame. Not the settlements – which he supports.

My fears have turned into hope. I hope he succeeds. What about the grievances Palestinians have against Israel’s harsh treatment of them? That Palestinian meme doesn’t play so well with Trump. Because of his advisers he knows why they get such harsh treatment. It is the decades of Jew hatred among them that has generated terror. Which Israel needs to secure itself against. In other words any oppression they feel is their own fault. Or more precisely, the fault of their leaders.

Trump knows this. And he knows that the real impediment to peace is their decades long and continuing indoctrination  of Jew hatred.  This is how the Trump administration policy towards Israel will operate under Jason Greenblatt. While the rest of the world will continue to blind itself to the real culprit. The most powerful nation on earth (by far – and which will get even stronger if Trump keeps his promise) will  know the real problem and not fall prey to the Palestinian narrative that it’s all about the settlements. Which is what the rest of the world thinks.

Pressure will now be on the Palestinians to change their act. And not as much on Israelis. How anyone can blame Israel for protecting itself from terror knowing that it is sourced in Palestinian Jew hatred –  is something I will  never fully understand. Even though there might be some occasional abuses by Israeli forces, one has to see that in the context of history and not reflexively blame Israel every time a Palestinian is hurt in circumstances which are not clear.

I have always in theory supported the idea of settling all of Eretz Yisroel. That’s because that land is our land given to us by God. What serious Jew who believes in the Torah would not want to have the entire Land of Israel as a sovereign nation settled by Jews ? Nonetheless I opposed it in practice for two reasons. One as a matter of Pikuach Nefesh and two because it antagonized Israel’s closest ally, the US.

But now that Trump is about to be in office and clearly supports the settlers, it may be time to reassess my own approach to settlements. On the one hand the US will no longer be saying that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. The violence on the other hand may still go on or even increase in the short term. I will have to see how things progress under this new policy.

One thing seems sure. Every administration since at least Clinton has pursued peace by favoring the Palestinian narrative of opposing settlements and supporting a two state solution. And every administration has failed.  Now for the first time Palestinians will not have a US partner in that view. Only European partners. None of whom will convince Israel to stop settlements in light of a US policy that endorses them.

I don’t know if even the guy who wrote the book on deal making can accomplish the peace deal of the century. But it will be interesting to see him try under this new policy.

A lot of pundits seem to think that novices like Greenblatt and Friedman who have no experience dealing with the situation there should not by trying to negotiate anything. It would be like me trying to negotiate a merger between Amazon and Ebay. They will point to seasoned experts who – after years of involvement – have determined the reality of the conflict there and know what can – and can’t be done. But there are a variety of experts on the Middle East that in some cases are poles apart from each other. Daniel Pipes comes to mind. My guess is that it will be people like Pipes that will be advising Trump’s team on the Middle East now. The policies of the past have not produced one iota of progress.

One may ask, “What about the State Department or some of Trump’s other advisers. Like Defense Secretary designate James Mattis?” Both oppose settlement activity.

If there is one thing that is clear, it is that Trump will be setting policy. He will not allow the failed policies of the past to influence him. Not the State Department he will inherit. And not Mattis. He listens to people that he trusts:  His settlement supporting Orthodox son in law and the 2 Orthodox Jews he has appointed to do the job.

I am a peacenik. I want to see peace in Israel. A warm peace with a positive relationship developing between Jews and Arabs; Palestinains and Israelis. No more bloodshed. No more wars. That’s why I was supportive of Oslo. And that’s why I am supportive of Trump – Oslo’s polar opposite. Whatever it takes. It’s is time to step back and give him a chance.


Who knows. Maybe Palestinains can be ‘convinced’ to make a deal by force of a carrot (more US aid) and stick (withdrawing it) approach. Trump may very well fail. But what have we got to lose? What if he succeeds? Can anyone imagine the possibilities?


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].