By Larry Gordon
Many years ago, it was my occasional task to drive to JFK Airport to either take my parents there or bring them home after one of their winter excursions to sunny Miami Beach, Florida. Back then, the airport was just a place where people went for a flight or to pick up or deliver friends or family members.
Back then, there were no bomb-sniffing dogs or military or police personnel with automatic weapons. All that changed, as we know, after 9/11, and now airports are a front line of sorts and a place where one is subjected to searches and careful examination of luggage and other bags.
To pick my parents up from the airport, I would end up arriving early or the plane they were on would be delayed for whatever reason. Inevitably, I would just be pacing around the airport with nothing to do but wait. More than just a few times while standing around, I would be approached by people and asked if I knew when the next El Al plane was scheduled to arrive. I had no idea, but it quickly became apparent that just because I was in the airport and wearing a yarmulke, I must have memorized the entire El Al schedule. And that was, as a matter of fact, not the case.
That specific memory resurfaced the other day with the announcement that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, would be appointed as a senior adviser to the incoming president. According to media reports, one of the central goals of his position will be to achieve peace between Israel and Arab countries, including most likely, if not primarily, the Palestinian population in Israel’s midst.
Similar to my fielding El Al questions, it is assumed that because Mr. Kushner is Jewish—and an Orthodox Jew at that—he, better than anyone else, will have the ability to solve Middle East crises as they arise and bring peace to the region.
That Mr. Kushner will be a senior aide to President Trump is a wonderful thing beyond the dynamics of the nature of his influence in shaping future U.S. policy toward Israel. Mr. Kushner is young—only 35—and smart and obviously accomplished. His presence and the respect his father-in-law apparently has for him bodes well for the United States in general and supporters of Israel here as well as the people of Israel specifically.
And that is not because Mr. Kushner has a deep and strong Jewish background which in American politics would ordinarily work to his detriment. The bold move by Mr. Trump is another important no-nonsense step in the direction of getting things done that need doing regardless of the window-dressing or symbolism associated with the decision-making process involved.
Posting Jews in Israel, whether as U.S. ambassador or even the New York Times reporter covering the Jewish state, has always been shrouded in conflict and controversy. Not including the current U.S. ambassador, Dan Shapiro, the Jews in that post seemed to cause more problems than they solved.
The upcoming ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has broken new ground on a multiplicity of levels even before he moves into the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya and spearheads the effort to finally move the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. It was reported the other day that from the get-go, the new ambassador will reside in Jerusalem and work out of the U.S. Consulate building on Agron Street. Now that’s a good start.
The first American Jewish ambassador to Israel was Dan Kurtzer, who held the post from 2001 to 2005. This did not work out so well, as it seemed that Kurtzer was too aware of the accusation that he would favor Israel by virtue of his Jewishness. He was a career foreign-service person and as a result saw no other way out of the Middle East puzzle than the now-unworkable (and probably always-unworkable) two-state-solution ideas.
Then there was Martin Indyk, who was always a headache for Israel and continues to try to be one today at the behest of Secretary Kerry and the president.
The current ambassador, Dan Shapiro, seems to kind of fly beneath the radar, stay out of the news, toe the party line, and, like the others representing the U.S., stay out of East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria because the U.S. does not recognize those areas as sovereign Israel.
So now as far as Israel is concerned, with the chain of command flowing from Trump to Kushner to Friedman, there will be a reset that possibly incorporates and considers reality instead of the 35-year-old State Department fantasy.
Sure, no one is going to articulate the sentiments in precise terms, but it is out there. And that is, because of Kushner’s Orthodox upbringing and even current lifestyle, the presumption will be that his orientation and disposition will identify with the political right in Israel.
Oddly enough, if you are a leftist and advocate positions that the leadership in Israel deems harmful to her long-term interests and security, there will be no protests.
The ball hasn’t started rolling yet, but Mr. Trump is already doing a great job. It’s easy to conclude as much, seeing how livid the president-elect’s critics are, from Meryl Streep on up. The confidence that Mr. Trump has in Jared Kushner is a wonderful thing. We are all on the same page and feel the same way.
Tale Of Two Cities
Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman is in Israel this week, and one of the places he took time to travel to and learn more about is the community of Emmanuel located deep in the Shomron.
Emmanuel is an interesting community that today is home to about 6,000 people. It was established in 1983, and back then it was unique inasmuch as chassidic or chareidi American and European families saw it as an opportunity to purchase property and build a home in Israel while at the same time contributing to the strengthening of Eretz Yisrael.
So what does the mayor of Lawrence here in the Five Towns have to do with this remote city in Samaria? As it turns out, when some of the community members visited New York recently, they were introduced to Mayor Edelman, who at the time informed them that he would be in Israel this week. At that point, they insisted that he travel out to see the community with his own eyes, and that is exactly what he did on Monday.
“It’s quite an impressive community,” Mr. Edelman said on the phone the other day. “It seems that everywhere you turn there are young children playing or walking back home from school or on an errand for the family.” He added that he observed quite a bit of construction, which was interesting considering that there is supposed to be a de facto construction freeze on this so-called other side of the Green Line.
Emmanuel is a bit of an economically depressed community, as there is no real industry; those who are not studying in one of the community yeshivas travel to nearby Ariel or Bnei Brak or Jerusalem for employment.
Edelman says that the mayor of Emmanuel asked him to consider setting up a twin-cities relationship between Emmanuel and Lawrence. Edelman said that he will have to discuss the matter at an upcoming village trustee meeting and he was certain that the community here would be open to listening to how they could help out the 1,600 families in Emmanuel.
We will keep you posted about this project.
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