Chairman of the Republicans Overseas in Israel, Marc Zell – “Trump is dealing with many of the same problems Netanyahu is dealing with.”
“Donald Trump is not a politician. He is a leader. His goal is to change the way politics has been for a long time. The first way of doing this is by keeping campaign promises. He is very serious about fulfilling the promises he made and I can therefore tell you that he is committed to moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.”
Attorney Marc Zell states this calmly and resolutely when I raise the issue of moving the embassy. I met with Zell, the Co-Chairman of the Israel branch of Republicans Overseas, for an interview to discuss last year’s American elections for the Hebrew site of Mida magazine. This was obviously the question that Israelis most wonder about concerning President Trump, whether they voted for him or not.
Our conversation touched on many issues regarding the process and the atmosphere of US politics. Zell raises an interesting point regarding the difference in the voting patterns between American Jews and American ex-pats who live in Israel. “American Jews vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats, over 70%, while Americans voting from Israel voted over 80% for the Republicans.”
The reason for this, according to Zell, is that the priorities of each is different. “American Jews put the emphasis on social issues and feel this is best represented by the Democratic candidates. Americans in Israel are obviously concerned with the future of the country they live in. At the moment they feel that this concern is best addressed by Republican candidates.”
Zell, a lawyer and partner in an international law firm, was active in American politics with the Republican party since 1972 and made aliyah to Israel in 1986. He points out that Israelis have been seeking for many years to reform the Israeli political system and model it on the American presidential system, believing this will tackle the problems inherent in the coalition system and allow the elected leader stronger governance abilities.
“It is ironic” says Zell, “that the source of Trumps difficulties over the past year, in implementing the policies he was elected for, have been a result of issues of governance. Government bureaucracy has posed difficulties. Trump was not in a hurry to replace the hundreds of officials who were appointed during the Obama administration and they have hindered the implementation of his policies.”
“As in Israel, he also is dealing with a difficult legal system at the moment” says Zell. “In the United States, the president may appoint hundreds of federal judges, and many judges appointed during Obama’s term interfere with the president’s decisions and try to thwart his actions.”
Trump is focused on fulfilling his promises, Zell stresses over and over during our talk. “Trump believes in his path and will continue to strive to achieve the goals he believes are what will benefit the American people.”
The most memorable promise was the building of a wall, like in Israel, to reduce migration. Zell stresses that Trump is doing this in a systematic and less visible way at the moment. “This administration is reducing the numbers of both the undocumented and legal foreigners living in the United States. There is an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system that will affect generations to come.”
“Federal officials are wielding executive authority and are actually constructing a bureaucratic wall that will be more effective than a physical one” adds Zell. “Trump is doing things quietly and persistently. The administration has moved to slash the number of refugees, accelerate deportations and terminate the provisional residency of more than a million people, among other measures.”
Trump is finding ways to fulfill his promises, what about the embassy in Israel then? I persist. “He promised and he will do it” says Zell, “but everyone forgets that Trump said something more important and very essential during the election campaign, and then when he visited Israel. Above all, Trump said that he supports Israeli sovereignty and thus Israelis are the masters of their future. He will not do a thing against the will of the Israeli government. The same as with a political solution to the conflict, Trump is committed to the policy of the elected government of Israel, and he will not take unilateral steps that are in anyway against the interest and will of the Israeli government.”
Regrading the situation in the Middle East, Zell states that “Trump wants to promote the axis against Iran, which is comprised of Sunni states together with Israel, which requires building trust, but above all, leadership, and Trump has to repair the enormous damage that Obama has made to the status of the US as the leader of the free world. Leadership is the result of determination and resolve. Trump has already taken a few steps that have signaled to the world that the US retaken it leadership role: in the Syrian case, when they crossed an American red line and used chemical weapons, Trump immediately ordered the bombing of Syrian units.”
Zell emphasizes that the world sees and understands that the game today is different from what they have known in the past decade. “The announcement of a renewed examination of the agreement with Iran and the announcement of withdrawal from the UNESCO organization are also testimony to the change.”
The United States retaking its position of leader of the free world can only mean good things for Israel. I guess moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is less of a priority at the moment.
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