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Israel Weighs in on New US Administration

11-15-2016
Israeli Family in Ofra, Samaria, Courtesy TPS, Hillel Maeir

JERUSALEM, Israel – President-elect Donald Trump's promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is an excellent idea, a former Israeli national security advisor told journalists Monday.
 
"It will not change anything from the mantle on the ground, but it will be very symbolic. It's very important symbolically," Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said.
 
Amidror praised the U.S. system that gives the incoming administration a two-month period to formulate its policies.
 
In a weekend interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he would like to help find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – "the war that never ends" – for the sake of humanity, but that he had no intention of forcing an agreement on a sovereign state. He said he advised President Obama not to use his last two months in office to issue ultimatums to Israel.
 
Amidror expressed the same sentiment, saying he believes "these two months will be crucial to shape the policy from our side and in the U.S." The former national security advisor said it's important not to jump the gun in any of these areas.
 
Meanwhile, in what's being billed as a potential 180-degree turnaround in US policy, one of Trump's legal advisors said Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are not an obstacle to peace.
 
In an interview with Army Radio late last week, Jason Greenblat cited Israel's 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Under then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli government uprooted nearly 10,000 Israelis from 21 communities in the Gush Etzion Settlement Bloc in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria.
 
Far from advancing peace with the Palestinian Authority, the pullout put southern Israel in the crosshairs of Hamas rocket fire. It also facilitated Palestinian sniper fire, made it easier to plant roadside bombs near the security fence and dig attack tunnels under the border with Israel.
 
Terror training camps and rocket launch pads replaced the once thriving communities.
 
"The two sides are going to have to decide how to deal with that region, but it's certainly not Mr. Trump's view that settlement activity should be condemned and that it's an obstacle for peace - because it is not the obstacle for peace."
 
"He is not going to impose any solution on Israel. He thinks that the peace has to come from the parties themselves. Any meaningful contribution he can offer up, he is there to do, it is not his goal, nor should it be anyone else's goal, to impose peace on the parties," said Greenblatt.
 
With regard to Israel's larger security issues, Greenblatt said that the newly elected president "thinks that Israel is in a very tough situation and needs to defend itself as it needs to defend itself."
 
With regard to Trump's pre-election promise that he would relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Greenblatt said he expected that the pledge would be fulfilled.
 
"I think he said it, he is going to do it. He is a man who keep this word. He recognizes the historical significance of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, unlike UNESCO," Greenblatt said.
 
Trump won't be like his predecessors, Greenblatt said. "He is different for Israel than any recent president has been.
 
Greenblatt also addressed a question about whether he could be the Middle East envoy in the Trump administration.
"It's a little too soon to tell. I would be honored and privileged to serve in that kind of role. It would be an incredible opportunity and a bracha (blessing)," he said.
 
Asked if anyone in the Israeli military establishment is worried about Trump's lack of political and military experience, Amidror said "It's not a question of being worried, but rather about making our position very clear."
 
"It will be our very important job to brief them and give our counterparts on the American side the tools they need," he said.
 
"Now we have to see how we can contribute to the way his policy can be shaped by his people," he said.

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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