(JNS) For most of the Israeli right, U.S. President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel legacy will outlive other elements of his controversial presidency, particularly his last days in office.
Pro-Trump leaders, activists and analysts said that the Jan. 6 mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol, for the most part, will not change the nationalist camp’s high regard for the Trump administration’s pro-Israel achievements, which include moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; recognizing Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights and the legitimacy of Jewish settlements in the 'West Bank' (Judea and Samaria); and the brokering of the Abraham Accords despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
American-Israeli activist Avi Abelow, who runs the pro-Israel media platform, Pulse of Israel, said it is wrong to blame Trump for the violence in Washington.
“I believe it will be a blip on the historical timeline, and even within a few years, the true Trump legacy will be accepted and taught in the history books, and not this stain that is part of a four-year-long campaign to delegitimize Trump and the whole movement,” said Abelow, a resident of Efrat.
“The effort to discredit Trump is mainly in order to discredit his policies.”
Settlement leadership was split over the “deal of the century”—officially called the “Peace to Prosperity” Mideast plan—when it was rolled out in January 2020. David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council, Israel’s main settler advocacy organization, slammed Trump as no friend of Israel in large part for the peace plan’s endorsement of a Palestinian state. Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, stepped down as Yesha Council’s Chief Foreign Envoy over the disagreement.
“When we were in D.C. in January, I said that one of the things Obama achieved was the fact that he united us and put us in one ship—not differentiating between blocs, towns, cities. And when issues of all sorts of compromises came in the air, things got difficult,” Revivi told JNS.
While he was upset over the images of violence at the Capitol, Revivi does not think they could or should erase the extraordinary paradigm shift that the Trump administration had ushered in.
“The effort to discredit Trump is mainly in order to discredit his policies,” he said.
Elhayani has since not backed down on his criticism of Trump. In a segment titled “The Right Bids Farewell to Trump,” which aired Friday night, Elhayani told television journalist Yaron Deckel that he embraces the incoming Biden administration and rejects Trump’s alleged flirtation with racists.
In the same segment, noted columnist Caroline Glick; Ariel Sender, advisor to the Trump campaign in Israel; and Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, criticized Trump’s handling of the election controversy but nevertheless praised him for his legacy, with Sender and Dagan calling his presidency a “miracle” for Israel.
Also in the segment, Dani Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council and former Consul General of Israel in New York, lobbed similar praise for the incoming president, saying Biden’s team is one with which Israel could work well.
“What happened to us was a type of miracle because I think Biden is the most pro-Israel Democratic candidate for president we could have hoped for,” Dayan told Deckel. Dayan, who recently joined the ticket of Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s Likud breakaway party, New Hope, also said Israel might want to reconsider naming a town or train line after the now-disgraced president.
Glick, on the other hand, expressed concern over Biden’s appointment of key officials with records of hostility towards Israel. As for neo-Nazis who may have stormed the Capitol, she said they represent a fringe.
Abelow does not believe that the Biden administration can reverse the embassy move or the Abraham Accords, but he fears a return to the appeasement of the Palestinians and also of Iran. Critical voices like Elhayani, he said, are a minority in the settler community. During the campaign, Biden stated that he would keep the embassy in Jerusalem, and his nominee for Secretary of State Tony Blinken has praised the Abraham Accords as a “positive step.”
The general Israeli public from right-of-center, he said, will remain appreciative of Trump’s Mideast achievements, although recent controversies might sour them to him personally.
“Israel and the freedom-loving world has never had a president who truly led a foreign policy based on reality—based on knowing that there are good actors and bad actors, and pushing forward a better future for the good actors without rewarding the bad actors,” said Abelow.
‘A regional power-broker’
“It took a man who was not the norm, not a career politician, not a regular ‘dude’—a dude that came from being a mogul, media guy and just a character—to break a lot of the calcified lies that we’ve lived with,” said Yishai Fleisher, the American-born international spokesperson for the Jewish community of Hebron.
The defamation of Trump in the media, he said, mirrors the defamation of Israeli settlers as “obstacles to peace.”
Fleisher, as an advocate for Israel, deferred on judging Trump’s performance in the United States, though he thinks that patriotic Israelis will continue to like him, even personally, in part because they got the sense that he genuinely liked them.
“President Trump raised Israel to the level of ally and regional power, and put us in the place that we understand ourselves to be: a true member of the Middle East family and also a regional power-broker that keeps the peace in the region.”
He added that Trump set a new gold standard among Republicans, too, for what it means to be truly pro-Israel.
Revivi has maintained ties with Democrat leaders but is not yet clear on how they will approach the new facts on the ground post-Trump.
“We’re going to take the boost that he gave Israel,” he said, “and we’re going to run with it.”
Orit Arfa is a journalist based in Berlin and author of The Settler, a novel about the aftermath of the withdrawal from Gaza. www.oritarfa.com.