Congressman Joe Wilson, a staunch supporter of Israel, on American feelings for the Bible, the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the importance of Conservative media outlets
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson has been serving in the House of Representatives since 2002, and has been an outspoken supporter of Israel.
Last month he introduced a Resolution in the House of Representatives commemorating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel. The resolution commends President Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and encourages other countries to follow suit. Congressman Wilson sits on both the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, allowing him to view foreign affairs from both a diplomatic and military perspective and to keep close tabs on the U.S. relationship with Israel.
The opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will be attended by a Presidential delegation, including the Deputy Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and some of the President’s senior advisers, as well as a Congressional delegation, which is being led by Congressman Wilson, who felt strongly about being in Jerusalem for the event. “I recognized immediately [that] the President’s courage to establish the Embassy in Jerusalem should be identified with a delegation that has significance, and we do.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Congressman Wilson to discuss this historic event. In setting up our interview, I had explained to him that Mida is an Israeli version of National Review, bringing a Conservative view point to the Israeli media, in a sea of left wing media. Even before we began discussing the importance of moving the Embassy, he gave his perspective on the importance of Conservative media outlets.
He said: “National Review started out as the only conservative publication, and now look what they have helped produce, a vibrant two party system across the US, and so William F Buckley made such a difference promoting conscience of a Conservative – the whole concept of limited government and expanded freedom; so your publication can make a difference!”
With these encouraging words, he reflected on his days as a volunteer for Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign to emphasize how small beginnings, at times going against the tide, can lead to a major impact. Goldwater’s campaign for President, against the popular incumbent Lyndon Johnson, was “perceived as lunacy”. However it was that campaign “that actually laid the groundwork for Ronald Reagan being elected President in 1980 – a direct connection.” Reagan’s first speech as a political actor was during that campaign, and it was called ‘A Time for Choosing’. “He gave an extraordinary speech about a week before the 1964 election. Barry Goldwater didn’t have a chance, but Ronald Reagan gave a very significant speech which laid the groundwork for promoting free markets and ultimately victory in the cold war.”
While the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in 1995, before Wilson arrived in Congress, he is surprised that it took so long to implement. “It was anticipated that it could be waived several times; it was quite a surprise the length of time it has taken”. Wilson is referring to the provision in the legislation which allows the President to delay implementation of the Act for six months if that “is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
The Jerusalem Embassy Act is a prime example of Congress playing a role in the foreign policy of the United States, a role that Wilson believes should be larger. “Sadly, regarding the Jerusalem Act, there was a lack of action in Congress, [and therefore] it took a strong leader – Donald Trump – to implement what Congress had approved. And sadly, indeed, Congress has not been forceful in foreign affairs as it has the ability to be.”
Congress, which, under the U.S. Constitution, has power equal to that of the executive branch, has exercised its influence many times in foreign affairs by using the power of the purse. It was Congress that ended US military involvement in Vietnam (the Eagleton, Cooper and Church amendments), Angola (the Clark Amendment) and Nicaragua (the Boland Amendment); halted the supply of AWACs to Iran on the eve of the Khomeini revolution; overhauled the US intelligence apparatus (the Church/Pike Committees); and forced the USSR/Russia to allow emigration of one million Jews to Israel (the Jackson-Vanik amendment); to cite a few examples.
Following President Trump’s declaration that he would move the Embassy to Jerusalem, the swift implementation of that decision was facilitated by the pre-existence of the US consulate already located in the Arnona area of Jerusalem. This building was opened a little less than a decade ago and needed only minor adjustments – in the form of various security adjustments and a small wing to be built for the Ambassador and his staff – to serve as a temporary embassy. Although the Ambassador will start to work part time out of Jerusalem, it is still unclear when the all the Embassy staff will be moved and if there other obstacles preventing the full transfer of the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I don’t know specifically, I’m sure there [are] all kinds of issues, but I’m sure the President has cut through all the red tape to expedite the move. I just appreciate the resolve of the President, even if it’s just an initial Embassy. I was at the initial embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was a bombed out building with sand bags in the hallways to protect the people walking through the hallways. So you begin with such a level and then you expand to whatever is appropriate for the country.”
But for Congressman Wilson, moving the embassy is a lot more than recognizing reality, it is part of the recipe for stability in the region. “To me it’s absolutely critical, that all nations should be able to identify their capital, and by not giving recognition to the ability of Israel to name its capital, it gave an appearance of illegitimacy. Now, with President Trump’s courageous decision, also backed up by other countries, such as President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, we see that indeed the legitimacy of Israel is perfectly clear now, this is not a temporary phenomenon of a nation that is here today and gone tomorrow.”
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is one more commitment that President Trump is fulfilling. Wilson also points out that President Trump pledged ‘peace through strength’, a strong national defense which has included not only rebuilding the American military, but also strengthening US military presence in various parts of the world. “[Pres. Trump] should also be given credit for putting the American military in Poland along with NATO – Canadian, British, and German troops – in Latvia, Lithuainia and Estonia, additionally the President has reinforced our military presence in Romania M.K. airbase, and upgraded the military presence at Novo Selo in Bulgaria, and additionally he has promoted the joint training exercises with the Republic of Georgia, so to me all of these are frontline states which are beneficial to defend Israel and the US and should be reassuring for all our allies.”
Throughout our conversation, Congressman Wilson reiterated that this President is fulfilling commitment after commitment that he made during the campaign. While he is saddened that the liberal media dismisses this as showmanship, Trump’s commitment to deliver on his promises – cutting taxes, creating jobs, and promoting economic growth, among other things – surely sends a message to North Korea that the President is serious about achieving denuclearization. His promises are not empty words.
The fact that the issue of opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem is an issue that is important to Americans is something unique. There is something almost surreal about this – that one country is so close to one of its allies. Wilson told me that I should add the word ‘biblical’ to surreal. “People of the US – of all faiths – are so appreciative of the teachings of the bible, and one of the most important cities in the world, to any American, is Jerusalem, and the American people have a lot of love and affection for the State of Israel and the people of Jerusalem.”
That love can be expressed in Wilson’s strong desire to be at the embassy’s opening ceremony in Jerusalem. “We have conflicts that are substantial with different graduations and Mothers Day, but this is such an important time and I’m just grateful that my wife is allowing me to go.”
Gideon Israel is the President of the Jerusalem Washington Center
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