Israelis rejoiced Tuesday over President Trump’s historic decision to accept the legality of West Bank settlements as authorized by Israeli courts — but sources caution much more must be done to ensure Israel’s security and Middle East peace.
The president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Yael Eckstein, remarked, “Once again, this United States government has embraced a sensible policy grounded in reality, which is the first step in the process to achieve lasting peace in the Holy Land.”
Scott M. Feltman, the executive director of One Israel Fund, a New York-based non-profit that promotes the welfare of Israelis living in the West Bank regions of Judea and Samaria, tells Newsmax that firm U.S. support makes peace more likely.
“I believe personally and professionally that peace will come about with a strong Israel and a strong American voice,” Feltman tells Newsmax.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz, the founder of Israel365.com, tells Newsmax, “This was one small victory in a war with a long road ahead. Israel needs to seize the opportunity and annex all of Judea and Samaria yesterday.
“That’s because if God forbid, [Vermont Sen.] Bernie Sanders or [Massachusetts Sen.] Elizabeth Warren win the U.S. election in a year from now,” he says, “it’ll be much more difficult to do that.”
Critics of the new policy, however, blasted Secretary of State Mile Pompeo’s announcement.
Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of Jordan, tweeted that the settlements “will kill [the] two-state solution.” A New York Times report warned the new policy “could destroy peace efforts with Palestinians.”
Feltman says One Israel Fund has been on the ground in Judea and Samaria this week, distributing body armor to civilians working in the settlements. The region is home to nearly half a million Israeli citizens.
He adds that Monday’s announcement is even more historically significant than the September 2017 relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as the March acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“Having America come out and make this statement has such wide-ranging ramifications,” says Feltman, “and it probably the most important statement they could have made.”
Noting U.S. policy on the settlements has been “inconsistent over decades,” Pompeo declared, “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”
Those words marked a sharp break from the Obama administration’s policy, which held the settlements represented “the greatest obstacle to peace” in the Middle East.
David Sidman, editor-at-large for the Israeli-based Breaking Israel News, lives in one of Israel’s more than 130 settlements. He describes his community’s reaction to the Pompeo announcement was positive but calm.
“It’s important to understand,” he explains, “that we Israelis in Judea and Samaria don’t need validation from Trump or whoever wrote international law. We know that we belong here by the only authority that matters — God.
“Nonetheless,” Sidman tells Newsmax, “it was still an admirable and brave gesture made by Trump. It’s worthy of our respect.”