echo chamber

White House sells peace plan to Jewish and evangelical leaders

Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at a special meeting in the Knesset, organized by the Knesset Caucus for U.S. – Israel Relations.

Following the rollout of the Trump administration’s peace plan Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with a small group of Jewish and evangelical leaders at the White House for an off-the-record briefing on the plan’s details. 

Who was in the room: Participants included the ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates; Conference of Presidents CEO designate William Daroff, executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein and chairman Arthur Stark; the Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy, Nathan Diament; Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein; Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut; Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Yeshiva University president Ari Berman, JINSA president and CEO Michael Makovsky; Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America; Marty Oliner, president of Religious Zionists of America; Family Research Council president Tony Perkins; KAIROS Company founder Johnnie Moore; Pastor Robert Jeffress, Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed; and former Rep. Michelle Bachmann. 

Pleased with the outcome: Klein told JI that there are “many aspects of the plan that I am pleased about,” noting that he was satisfied that the administration had pledged to support Israeli annexation. Klein declined to comment on whether he endorses the plan — which includes the creation of a Palestinian state and land swaps — in its entirety. “If the Palestinian Authority fulfills all its obligations in this plan, then it would no longer be the Palestinian Authority under [Yasser] Arafat and [Mahmoud] Abbas that we have learned to fear and despise,” he said.

View from Judaean Hills: Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat and the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha (the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council, tells JI that the plan “presents many achievements for the settlements, and challenges alongside them. We will have to sit and discuss how to leverage the plan for the State of Israel.” Revivi, who attended Trump’s inauguration and maintains close ties with the administration, said he’ll be reserving judgment of the plan, notwithstanding the “great achievement for settlements,” until all settler leaders meet  to discuss the “challenges that are not simple” — the recognition of a Palestinian state and the recognition of East Jerusalem as the its capital. 

Israel’s Santa: Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Museum and an evangelical advisor to Trump, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that the plan is “the biggest present that Trump has ever given” to Israel because it recognizes the legality of settlements in the West Bank. And he predicted that Israel will not rush to apply sovereignty over all the settlements in the West Bank as long as Trump is in office. “Trump is Santa Claus for Israel,” Evans explained, “and when he knocks on your door with so many gifts, the last thing you want is to slam the door back in his face. But if a Democrat like Bernie Sanders gets elected, within 24 hours, Israel will do the annexation.” 

Seeking clarification: But Evans, who met with Jared Kushner on Monday for a pre-release briefing, said that he will be seeking clarification from the administration on where in East Jerusalem the capital will be located because “my base will be very angry” if Israel is required to give up on parts of Jerusalem.

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