Live: GOP Candidate Bruce Blakeman in Israel
GOP Congressional candidate Bruce Blakeman is to meet with leading Israeli officials and land of Israel activists in Jerusalem Wednesday, as part of efforts to promote ties between the State of Israel and the US.
Blakeman, who is running for New York’s 4th Congressional District is in Israel with prominent pro-Israel activist Dr. Joe Frager.
During his visit Blakeman will be meeting with MKs, government ministers, Land of Israel activists and rabbis in a gesture of solidarity with the people of Israel.
Introducing Blakeman, Frager noted that the Congressional candidate had led the fightback against BDS pressure on celebrities including Paul Mccartney .
Among those in attendance Wednesday evening was leading religious-Zionist figure Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar rabbinic institute and rabbi of the town of Shoham.
Rabbi Stav said that the event, organized by Dr. Frager, proved that Israeli should "never take for granted that we have good, dear and real trusted friends in the American Diaspora."
Noting Dr. Frager's extensive activism for Israel, Rabbi Stav praised him for finding so much time "to invest in the security of the state of Israel" despite his position as a top surgeon.
Turning to the relationship between "Israeli and American Jewry", he said Israelis had been "exposed to something very unique and important" as a result of Operation Protective Edge: the phenomenon of "lone soldiers" - in this context referring to the many American Jews who left their families in the US to fight in the IDF.
Several such volunteers fought on the front lines during the recent conflict, including Max Steinberg, who was killed during battle in Gaza.
The remarkable thing about such young volunteers is that they choose to enlist, and in many cases make aliyah, for purely positive ideological reasons.
"These are people who come from good, stable homes," who aren't running away from anything but chose to join the IDF and connect to the State of Israel "because it's their home, their country."
He called for Israeli Jews to make a greater effort to build bridges with American Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry in general, and in particular for Israeli yeshiva students to reach out and help foreign students to integrate during their time studying in the country.
Former Ambassador to the US and expert in US-Israel relations Yoram Ettinger offered "campaign advice" to Blakeman, urging him "not to campaign as a defender of Israel but as a defender of America", to emphasize how "Israel is fighting America's battle" against Islamists in Gaza.
"The fact that Obama and Kerry don't get that is something else," he added
Ettinger pointed out that the Gaza conflict against the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas was part of the fight for the future of the US's main Arab allies in the Middle East, and in particular the Egyptian government of President Sisi.
Whether the government remains in the hands of Sisi or if there be a return of the Muslim Brotherhood relies in great part on Israel's ability to defang Hamas.
An ascendent Hamas would also weaken other secular regimes in the region, including Jordan and the Gulf States - which is why the conflict saw states like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others "subtly support[ing] Israel even while overly opposing Israel."
Religious Affairs Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan expanded on that theme, stating that Israel was "the first, and possibly the last" outpost of defense for the west against the spread of radical Islam.
Israel, he added, is the only reliable friend of American which was willing to stand with the US no matter what - but that under the Obama administration many Israelis feel that that fact is not being appreciated.
MK Yoni Chetboun started by continuing on the theme of security, but emphasized that Israel was actually fighting a just cause for its right to live exist in the Jewish homeland.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Dov Kalmanovich presented Blakeman with a special gift: a golden pin with the flag of the city of Jerusalem. Blakeman noted that the emblem his district, just like Jerusalem, featured a lion, and pledged to "defend Israel" like a lion.
Blakeman praised Jerusalem as "the most spiritual, wonderful city in the world," and said his love of the holy city was why he chose to proposed to his fiance there just one day previously.
Noting Israel's battle against Islamist terrorists, from the Muslim Brotherhood, to Iranian proxies and Al Qaeda, he declared:
"Israel is the first line of defense. If that domino falls, Europe will fall, and if Europe falls - who will stand with America?" he asked, promising to be "a fighter for Israel and America" if elected.
He said that he was "very concerned" that the Democratic part was moving "further and further to the left," noting that while 73% of Republicans polled supported Israel, only 44% of Democrats did.
"The Democratic party is being hijacked by the pro-Palestinian left. That is a fact," he said.
Condemning pressure on Israel to make concessions he insisted "Israel should decide Israel's future - no country, including America - should tell Israel how to make peace. That's up to Israel - not Europe or America, but Israel,"