Donald Trump entered the White House last Friday and already we here in Israel are feeling the refreshing change in climate.
Let’s start with the fact that in his inaugural speech Trump vowed to unite the world against terrorism, and caused faint liberal hearts to swoon when he mentioned the dread pair of words “Islamic terrorism”.
Then we have Trump’s pick for UN Ambassador – Nikki Haley, who has already made her views known loud and clear:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was on offense Wednesday during her confirmation hearing to become United Nations ambassador, blasting the U.N. for its treatment of Israel and taking a tough line against Russia.Haley, during her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also questioned the disproportionate funding the U.N. receives from the U.S., asking if America is “getting what we pay for?”
“We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, far more than any other country,” Haley said. “We are a generous nation. But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution.”
President-elect Donald Trump has been a ferocious critic of the U.N. and just as fierce an advocate for Israel during his brief political career, and Haley echoed those principles.
“Nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Haley said.
She added: “I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel. I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States.”
Haley named Syria, Iran and North Korea as the “world’s worst human rights abusers” and said the American people were “fed up” with the U.N.’s inability to affect real change in countries of concern.
“The time has come for American strength once again,” she said.
Haley also spoke about the importance of human rights at home and abroad.
What a refreshing change from the bias and double speak of the previous ambassador and the State department. It also speaks well of Trump that he appointed Haley despite her earlier opposition to Trump during the primaries. He has obviously put the good of the country over his personal feelings.
Donald Trump is going to be meeting with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu where they will discuss, amongst other things, the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The atmosphere between the two countries has already improved, to the extent that this week the Jerusalem City Council finally gave approval for the construction of 566 new houses – and are discussing thousands more:
The municipality of Jerusalem on Sunday approved the construction of 566 new Jewish homes in northern portions of city that were won by Israel from Jordan during the Six Day War of 1967.
“After eight difficult years of Obama, we are continuing to build in Jerusalem,” remarked Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat. “I hope that the era of government delays as a result of political pressures has ended and that we will we able to leave to a big building boom in order to strengthen the sovereignty over a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
The municipality originally made the building plans in late December after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning construction in areas of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. However, the initiative was postponed in order not to further anger the then-outgoing Obama Administation that had abstained from vetoing the UN Security Council resolution condemning Jewish communities in those areas.
The new housing units will be built in the neighborhoods of Ramot and Ramat Shlomo in the northwestern parts of Jerusalem as well as in Pisgat Ze’ev, which lies more to the east.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s municipality is also expected to start discussions regarding the authorization of 5,600 additional housing units in both northern and southern portions of the city.
Of course the Palestinians are having a meltdown at the thought of Jews building houses for other Jews – even though there are over 150 other houses slated for Palestinians as well:
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat on Wednesday said he was “shocked” by the White House’s silence on Israel’s construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and called on President Donald Trump’s administration to clarify its policy.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced the approval of 2,500 housing units in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, in order to accommodate the housing needs of the residents and to return their daily routine to normal.
The announcement followed the approval earlier this week of 566 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev.
While the United Nations and the European Union were quick to condemn the new construction, White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday declined to express a position on Israeli construction when asked about it in his daily press briefing.
The Palestinians are also having conniptions about Trump’s plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem:
But as Trump’s inauguration approached, and now that he is President, there has been an escalating campaign by the Palestinian leadership which both incites violence behind the scenes and then uses that violence to warn of further violence should the move take place:
The key to the strategy is to falsely portray the Embassy move as an attack on Islam and to equate it with an attack on the al-Aqsa mosque. The internationalization of the dispute has been the singular Palestinian political focus since Israel’s independence.
Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub, a fairly notorious character, is adding to the escalation with an over-the-top attack on Trump and threats of violence.
Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub recently called U.S. President Trump’s plan to relocate the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem a “declaration of war” against the whole world and said “We want the confrontation to be between this new Fascist in the White House and the whole world – Christians as well as Muslims.” Speaking on the official Palestinian Authority TV channel on January 18, Rajoub called Trump a “lunatic” and asked: “Why does he think that he has the right to give them the keys …
There’s nothing like acting like the Mafia. The Palestinians are now claiming success in their campaign of intimidation, and say that the US has now backed down from moving the embassy.
Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but in any case it might prove to be a Pyrrhic victory as the State Department is now reviewing Obama’s disgraceful last minute backdoor gift to the Palestinians of $221 million in aid:
The State Department is reviewing a last-minute decision by former Secretary of State John Kerry to send $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the final hours of the Obama administration, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
On Monday, the same news agency revealed that former President Barack Obama defied Republican opposition and quietly released the money to the PA just before Donald Trump became president.
Even better news: It appears that the “review” is now an official “freeze” on the money transfer:
The Trump administration has informed the Palestinian Authority that it is freezing the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours on January 20, a senior Palestinian source has told The Times of Israel.
US officials conveyed to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
And lest the Palestinians plead poverty…:
Even without the $221 million, the Palestinian source noted that in 2016 the PA received $250 million from the US government.
These funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.
As for the Syrian crisis, Trump is taking action that should have been taken long ago by the Obama Administration. He has ordered safe zones in Syria while temporarily blocking the immigration of Syrian refugees into the US pending vetting procedures:
President Trump is ordering the Pentagon and State Department to develop a series of “safe zones” in Syria, a move that administration critics claims could draw the U.S. military deeper into the country’s civil war.
The safe-zone mandate was tucked into the text of an executive order signed Wednesday by Mr. Trump that establishes curbs on the flow of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other conflict zones from migrating to the United States. The order also institutes a revamped screening process for all U.S. immigrants.
As president, Barack Obama resisted calls for the safe zones along the borders of Syria, designed to be a protective shield for Syrian refugees fleeing the violence, for fear that the U.S. would be forced to defend the zones in a war in which Syrian rebels, Islamic State militants, Kurdish militias and soldiers from Iran, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey and Iraq are all involved.
Supporters said the zones were a humanitarian imperative in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands and could serve to contain the throng of refugees who have flooded Jordan, Turkey, Greece and much of Western Europe as the conflict has ground on.
Regarding immigration, while he is reportedly going to block immigration from several Muslim countries, this is in order to review the vetting process:
President Donald Trump will order the U.S. government to stop accepting Syrian refugees and suspend the issuing of visas to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, according to a draft executive order obtained by the Associated Press Wednesday.
The AP also reported that the draft order shows Trump intends to suspend the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days. Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen would be unable to obtain U.S. visas for at least 30 days.
Trump is expected to sign the order this week. It was not clear if the draft will be revised before then.
According to the AP, Trump’s draft shows that he will order Homeland Security and State Department officials, along with the director of national intelligence, to review what information the government needs to fully vet would-be visitors and come up with a list of countries that don’t provide it. The order says the government will give countries 60 days to start providing the information or citizens from those countries will be barred from traveling to the United States.
Exceptions would be made for diplomats, NATO visas or those people traveling to work at the United Nations.
During the campaign Trump, said vetting procedures were inadequate and suggested that terrorists could pose as Syrian refugees to infiltrate the United States.
I’m sure many progressives and liberals will be alarmed at the blocking of immigration, but assuming it is true that this block is purely for the sake of improving vetting procedures, it appears to be a common sense course of action. No country should be expected to take in refugees unchecked and sight unseen.
I know that Donald Trump is not the choice du jour for a lot of Americans and can understand their concern. He is certainly not perfect by any means.
But as far as Israel is concerned – and to misquote Barack Obama’s self-important election slogan of 2008 – this is the change that we’ve been waiting for.