By Andrew Friedman/TPS
The election of Donald J. Trump caused a “180 degree sea change” in the United States’ approach to Israel, a frequent lobbyist on behalf of Israel in Washington told TPS Sunday. But he added that estimates inside the pro-Israel community are that Israel has approximately 18 months to propose new policy initiatives to the White House.
“I was in Washington the week after Election Day, and I can tell you that there is solid, broad support for Israel,” said Jeff Daube, head of the Zionist Organization of America’s Israel office. Speaking to TPS on the sidelines of the Sovereignty Conference in Jerusalem, Daube said “as soon as the election was over, there this feeling that Israel shouldn’t stick to its policy of ‘incrementalism,’ but rather should move more aggressively to create change that the incoming administration could connect to.”
Daube added that most political experts feel that Israel has an 18-month window to present policy alternatives before members of Congress begin the mid-term election season. But he also said that several House members – he couldn’t say which ones – have offered to hold Congressional briefing sessions to consider other political options for Judea and Samaria than the two-state solution.
“Can you imagine? Congress is willing to hold hearings about other options for the Israel-Palestinian story other than the two-state solution? It’s the most unbelievable development in Congress’ approach to the subject in 20 years,” he added.
Daube also said that an important aspect of re-thinking the politics of the region is rethinking the notion of legality and rights as those concepts apply to Judea and Samaria.
“If you look at the 2012 Levy Report (authored by late Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy), he spells out clearly that Israel has the legal right to remain in Judea and Samaria. Now, I’m not saying that Israel should do that, or proposing any political plan at all. But whatever your views on the subject – two-states, one state, federation plan, Israeli sovereignty – the conversation should be based on facts, and there is at least a very strong stance that Israel has a legal right to these areas,” said Daube, who also heads the non-profit Legal Grounds campaign.
Ultimately, of course, much hangs on the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, scheduled for Wednesday evening (Israel time). Conference organizers said Sunday’s conference was planned long before Netanyahu and Trump announced the date for their first meeting at the White House, but the president garnered strong support in pro-Israel circles during the election campaign for sweeping promises to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and to unconditionally support Israeli building in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. His nomination of David Friedman as ambassador sent a further sign to the Israeli right that the new administration would present a sharp contrast to the policies of former President Barack Obama.
More recently, however, Trump appears to have been hit with a change of heart. Palestinian leaders leveled thinly-veiled threats to attack Israelis should Trump move forward with the embassy move, and news reports last week cited sources close to the administration that Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the president to hold off on the move, saying there were “more pressing concern” facing Israel. Netanyahu has denied making the request.