Op-Ed: Is President’s First Kotel Visit Good for Israel and U.S.?

This week began with President Donald J. Trump’s visit to Israel.  Pictures of him wearing a kippah and praying at the Kotel have sparked discussions all throughout the Jewish nation. Being that Trump is the first acting U.S. president to visit Israel, his visit was viewed as more significant and has caused further attention towards the matter (Former presidents visited either prior to their election, or following their term). President Trump, along with son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, davened on the men’s side of the holy Western wall, while wife and daughter Melania and Ivanka Trump stayed in the women’s section. The surprising element about Trump’s visit to the Kotel was that he was unaccompanied by any Israeli officials.

History Department Chair Mr. Grant Matla weighed in with a historical perspective.

“Provided Trump is doing something worthwhile. This is a good thing that he is visiting Israel.  The downside is that if Trump is just visiting Israel to say he did, then it may not be so good.”

On May 10, Trump revealed “classified information” to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding Israeli intelligence. Trump defended himself by claiming that he did not use Israel’s name when leaking the information, and therefore he is “innocent.”  During his visit, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had an open conversation about their alliance.  Wittingly, Netanyahu ended the discussion by announcing, “our intelligence cooperation is terrific.”  At  their press conference, Trump added, “I can see a much deeper path to friendship with Israel and I think a lot of that’s spread on whatever it takes, but a lot of it’s spread on by what’s happening with Iran.”  Trump criticized the Iran deal which was negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and went on to say, “Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened to us.”

Mr. Matla agrees that the Iran Deal is terrible, and explains Trump’s thoughts on saying that “they now feel emboldened” in two ways.  

“Iran is already in a violation or at least stepping there,” Mr. Matla said. “The Russians do not and will not respect the United States regardless of power and if Trump actually is friends with Vladimir Putin.  No matter who you place near Putin, he will always think he is better and therefore no common ground will ever be established. Russia sees itself as a leader in the Middle East.  They think they are better than the United States and will do whatever they want.  Although signing the Deal was awful, it is not an exact failure.”

Despite the fact that the U.S. did not veto the Iran Deal, and now Trump had just revealed classified information, Judaics teacher and Israeli citizen Rav Netanel Weil is certain our ties with Israel will continue.  

“On a personal level, the focus in Israeli media is Trump’s visit to the Kotel and how his experience was.  Israel will continue to share and help America, although they may be more cautious. ”

He agreed with Mr. Matla on some levels. “All of this was blown out of proportion because of the media and not fake news.  It is just because it is a perception.  I do not think Israel will stop its relationship with the state, which has nothing to do with Trump’s visit.”

Rav Weil also added that, “ Israel and America have always been allies because they each have an interest in the friendship.  What happened with Obama veto-ing and now Trump revealing classified information are two separate approaches to the story.  People make mistakes, including presidents, and with any mistake you make you can overcome.  There will be an effect to this mistake, but not one that will rise above the surface.”

Trump ended his visit by speaking to a group of people about his good thoughts towards Israel and how he will always be looking out for the country.  Donald Trump then ended his last conference in Israel by offering his condolences to the families of the people bombed in Manchester, “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers… that’s what they are.”

By: Samantha Ebner (9th Grade)

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