Jewish leader:
'The world has been turned upside down'

Martin Oliner welcomes Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, praises his administration.

Eliran Aharon,

Martin Oliner
Martin Oliner
Eliran Aharon

Martin Oliner, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and co-president of Religious Zionists of America, welcomed the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem in time for Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

The following is the full text of Oliner's special interview with Arutz Sheva, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem:

We live in an extraordinary time. Today, after 1,800 years, of deprivation of Jerusalem, of the inability to have our own capital, we are experiencing – after 70 years of our independence – a historical moment in time. A moment that is really unbelievable, unfathomable. Think about it. I, myself, span two generations.

What do I mean? I was able to live in a period when – we're sitting here today in the Inbal – where you couldn't come to the Inbal. The Inbal was off limits. I never understood how, before the war, before 1967, how it was possible for a bird to fly over to the Kotel, while I was looking at it from the YMCA. The only way I could see it was with rifles pointing at us. Where we're sitting today was full of barbed wire. So you can imagine that I understand the difference that younger generations don't appreciate. They never lived without the Kotel. They never lived without Yerushalayim, Ir Hakodesh, belonging to us. My grandparents would warm just look at a picture of Jerusalem.

So where are we today? So now the younger generation is experiencing something totally new. The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Something that it's been for the last 70 years, but finally we're getting recognition. So we're living in the month of Adar – that we have more simcha, we have more beautiful things happen to us. Well, what's happening in the United States is unbelievable. What's happened is that the world has been turned upside down, from an Obama administration which was not very favorable to Israel, we come to the most favorable possible administration, an administration that includes, for me, the model of a religious Zionist is.

We live in a miraculous time. Different people have different opinions. The miracle is Donald Trump. He is a miracle. He is really the story of Ester all over again. We see someone who particularly understands the importance of Israel as the only democracy the United States has as an ally here in the entire Middle East, and I'll come to that in a few moments. But more importantly, for me, as I was saying – we live in a time that is unfathomable, because as a religious Zionist, I see the models of religious Zionism in Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. And for that matter, most of all, the height of religious Zionism is demonstrated by Ambassador David Friedman. He is a true model, the epitome of a religious Zionist. And that is a wonderful thing. So we have, again, Israel's closest ally. I've been to other countries in the Middle East. And when you go to a monarchy, you go to any of the other countries, whether it's Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia – you appreciate what it means to be a democracy. And Israel is the only friend of America that is a pure democracy in every possible way.

What do you think about the people who say that moving the embassy will bring more terrorist attacks?

I think that's unfortunate. I think we've demonstrated now, when the announcement was made in the very first place, that there's been no increase in terrorism. That there isn't going to be any terrorism. And the best way to fight terrorism – the only way to fight terrorism – is to be brave, and do what Donald Trump is doing. To make it clear what the rules of engagement are. The world has to understand that what has been – isn't any more. The world has been turned upside down in many ways and the Palestinian issue really isn't an important issue anymore compared to the terrorism that's coming from Iran.

Do you think Israel can make peace with a leader who pays salaries to terrorists' families?

We've obviously looked at the terrorist issue. We've passed laws as you know to ensure that money doesn't go to terrorism, whether it's the Taylor Act and others. As the Ambassador to the United Nations from Israel has put it, 'right now you've made yourself not part of the solution but part of the problem'. So we have to hope that there will be somebody that we can make peace with, and of course, we in Israel and we in America yearn for peace.

What do you think of Ambassador Nikki Haley?

Ah, she's extraordinary. Everything about her is extraordinary. She's part of a team that's miraculous. The team is headed by President Trump. Donald Trump understands this region, understands how to negotiate, he's the ultimate person to lead a team, and he has very good people on that team including Nikki Haley, who's extraordinary.

What do you think of the Netanyahu investigations?

“Israel is a democracy. And Israel is not just a democracy, but it is the primary example of 'tzedek tzedek tirdof'. We believe in a standard higher than Berlusconi, we're not Italy; we're a very extraordinary place. On the one hand. But on the other hand, what you have to understand is that what we're talking about, is a situation where everybody in this country, probably 75% of this country, believes that there is no better leader to lead Israel today than Benjamin Netanyahu – everyone. Kuley alma lo pligi, as they would say in my yeshiva world. No one argues and suggests that there's somebody better. So let's look at what we're talking about. We're talking about something that's inconsequential on the one hand – but again, we are a perfect democracy, so that's the dilemma that we have.

But there is another theory that I subscribe to, and that is that at the end of the day, the people who elect prime ministers, who elect leaders, the elections – it's the people that decide that. So that there is a higher standard. Now, it seems that what we're talking about in the scheme of things is so inconsequential. Some of the issues that have been alleged against Sara Netanyahu make absolutely no sense. Does she take two cookies or does she take three cookies. Is that really important when we're talking about the leader of a country?

So there are missteps that everyone makes. There are presents that are presented to presidents and to leaders of the country by kings, generally. So in the consequence of things, we don't know. So obviously, before this all comes to an end, the speculation that's against Bibi Netanyahu is unfair. First of all, there's lots of work that needs to be done before the press indicts him and finishes this matter. So to me, let's see what happens. It's a function of, on the one hand, making sure that this country lives up to the highest possible standards, but on the other hand, we have to have something consequential to talk about. So when we talk about cookies and things like that's just inappropriate, to my mind.

So we have to see what happens. What we really have to see is how this goes down, what the future brings, and whether or not the prime minister calls new elections. Right now, if it's the way he thinks it is, and if I'm right in my analysis, then the electorate should govern and tell us what to do.

Do Jews living outside the US have a right to express opinions about what happens in Israel?

There are two sides to this story. Israel today is the leader of all Jewish people. It takes responsibility for the entire Jewish community, wherever Jews are. It is the homeland of all Jewish people. That's how it was established, and that's how it's practiced. If there are religious issues – agunah issues, for instance – Israel now is looking to take the leadership on that. If there's a military issue, if there's anti-Semitism. Whatever the issue might be, Israel is in the forefront of taking care of it. It sees itself as a world responsibility. So we need to be serious in the rest of the conversation.

Like any family, people can disagree. There's a right to disagree, there's a right to take a position. But, when it comes to certain matters, Israel is a democracy, like any other democracy. If you want to vote, you need to come here. You need to live here and then have the right to vote. So there are different kinds of issues, different security issues, different social issues, which someone had to take cognizance of.

The Jews in the Diaspora have more difficulties today than even before. That doesn't mean that there shouldn't be a meaningful dialogue. But the Diaspora can't dictate to the state of Israel how to go forward. So although Israel is the land for everybody – it's the homeland of all Jews, no matter where they live – there are Jewish Americans, there are American Jews, depending on where you put the perspective, but it doesn't really matter. The most important part is the hyphen. That hyphen puts us all together. The hyphen between the two words. So one is not more important than the other. They're both important. And I think with that thought, we can move forward.

There are going to be disagreements, but those disagreements have to be responsible disagreements and the people who are objecting to things have to understand, again, that this is a democracy, and if they want to have their way, a particular way, they need to come here, vote here, and elect members of the Knesset here, to represent them here. You have a right to have a conversation, but where you bring that conversation has to have responsible limits.