Will Israel’s interests be preserved under any US administration?

 The Republican Party’s campaign in Israel and its headquarters, which was set up again this year for the reelection of US President Donald Trump, aims to reach two different populations with similar views. The first is the population of American citizens living in Israel. The voting public in Israel is diverse, and, like the entire Jewish people, it encompasses many different communities. But alongside the differences and diversity, widespread support and gratitude were noticeable in the current campaign for the president’s activities in favor of the State of Israel during his four-year tenure. This population encompasses between 250,000 and 300,000 men and women with the right to vote in the US election. A large portion of this population is registered in New York state, so its impact on the results of the presidential election is low, but part of the other portion is associated with key states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin, so its potential for impact is very great. The second population group is the Evangelical Christian community in the US. This population encompasses more than 30 million eligible voters. This community is considered the “base” of the Republican Party, and is influenced by several key issues that affect its motivation to go and vote. One of them is the status of Israel and its relations with the US, as the Evangelical community is committed to Israel’s security and resilience as a Jewish and democratic state in the face of external threats.

The campaign sought to encourage these two communities to support Trump and the Republican Party, with the key message being “Thank you, Trump.” The message embodies the gratitude that Israel owes to Trump, and conveys to the Evangelicals the Israeli public’s commitment to the president and recognition of all the things he has done for the State of Israel, such as: the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition of the Golan Heights as an integral part of the State of Israel, cancellation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, cessation of aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency, peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and many other significant achievements.

The campaign operated on several fronts. First, it encouraged voters to register to vote – a not-so-simple issue in and of itself, given that a large proportion of voters are young, even first-time voters who are unfamiliar with the complicated bureaucratic procedures involved in registering to vote in the election. This part of the campaign included recruiting and managing volunteers across the country, with an emphasis on American population concentrations in places like Ra’anana, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Modi’in and Beit Shemesh, and operating a call center that handled all the voters’ questions during the registration process. In addition to voter registration, the campaign worked to bolster support for the Republican Party and Trump among voters. In this context, thousands of recruitment and persuasion conversations were had, mainly on the importance of supporting the president and the contribution that the Israeli voting effort will make. Despite all the restrictions in relation to the coronavirus, we worked to hold activities that would gain attention across networks and in the media – including field activities such as a tour with the Land of Israel lobby in Samaria, together with members of the party’s headquarters in Israel, with a public commitment to support the president and the party, a convoy of dozens of cars from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in support of the president from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and more. All these activities received attention in the Israeli media, as well as in the American media.

Another important goal of the campaign was to strengthen the support of the evangelists in the US, by showing the support that the president receives in Israel. In this regard, the campaign was a success, especially in light of the significant increase in the voter turnout of American citizens living in Israel, as well as the high voter turnout among evangelical Christians in the US.

THE TRUMP voters targeted by the campaign, who were confident that a second Trump term was guaranteed, as a result of the tremendous momentum that swept the US, now feel that the election “slipped through their hands.” Bitterness is rising, even to the point of a feeling of “election theft.”

If we try to analyze the impact of the coronavirus on the election campaign, we can almost certainly say two things: If, up until the coronavirus pandemic, the president’s victory was certain – as a result of a strong economy, more jobs and more economic output, including a rising stock market – then in the last eight months, the coronavirus outbreak has hurt the president’s economic policy, and the campaign was affected by it. On the other hand, it should be noted that more than 73 million US citizens still voted for the president, even with the coronavirus effect, so this effect should also be related to with considerable caution.

Against the background of the reported election results, a number of possible points of friction are evident. The fact that the election results have not been definitively decided, coupled with the growing number of allegations made by  Republicans of election irregularities, creates the feeling that the transition of power will not be smooth. But it is clear to all parties involved, from the president to party members, that when the legal inquiry procedure is completed, all parties involved will respect the final legal decisions that will be made.

Assuming Joe Biden is the president-elect, the State of Israel and its leader will have to reestablish its policy toward the US, with an emphasis on returning to the bipartisanship that characterized relations until Trump’s election, while maintaining a firm stance on Iran in particular, and issues of security in general. Biden has an interest in Israel’s welfare, as have all US leaders in the past, but there are fears that radical progressive elements in the Democratic Party will pull him, and the dominating Kamala Harris, to a reactionary stance to Trump’s foreign policy in general, and to the Middle East in particular.

In the background are the complex relations between Israel and the Diaspora. There is a sincere concern for the future of Israel among American Jewry, but at the same time, there are tensions surrounding Israeli policy regarding religion and state in Israel, including, among other things, the Western Wall. Hence, the question arises as to whether Reform Judaism will exert its influence in the White House to change the status quo.

The concern, in the long term as well, is in regard to the erosion of Israel’s status in the US public sphere, in light of the polarization of the political camps in the US, and the policy of the Israeli government in the past several years, a policy that has generated criticism by large parts of American Jewry.

One thing remains clear, and that is the deep commitment of American Jewry to the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, with the difference between the denominations and the political camps being only in the interpretation of these two words. The State of Israel must ensure that its security and moral interests are safeguarded under every American administration. On the other hand, American Jewry is expected to continue to face the great challenge of supporting Israel in the face of growing domestic opposition, with an emphasis on the most left-wing parts of the Democratic Party.

Israel is always safe with the US, even with Biden as its president. The concern should be about what will happen next in the Democratic Party.

The writer is the director of US President Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters in Israel and the chief business director of the Gilad Group.



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