Israelis and supporters of the Jewish state should not be alarmed by President Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding the future of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a leader of the Republican Party in Israel told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday, arguing that the president’s comments have been taken out of context.
Marc Zell, an attorney and senior official at Republicans Overseas Israel, spoke with Arutz Sheva on Wednesday hours after President Trump addressed supporters at a rally in West Virginia.
During the rally, the president touted his decision to relocated the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, fulfilling a campaign promise.
"I also recognized the capital of Israel and opened the American embassy in Jerusalem. And I understand now what happened, because every president - many, many presidents, said 'We're going to do it. We're going to move our embassy to Jerusalem. It's going to be the capital of Israel. We're going to do it - and then they don't do it. Politicians - they don't do it."
"I was inundated with calls from foreign leaders. Every country: 'Don't do it, don't do it - please don't do it.'"
"But I approved it, and it should have been done years ago," he said.
The president added that given his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian Authority would have to “get something very good next” for negotiations to succeed, “because it’s their turn next,” without naming any specific steps. “Israel will have to pay a higher price, because they won a very big thing.”
The comments led some Israeli lawmakers to express concern regarding the president’s position, and reporters repeatedly asked National Security Advisor John Bolton on Wednesday to comment on the president’s comments.
Zell, however, downplayed the significance of Trump’s comments Tuesday night, saying that there was nothing new being said.
“I’m not particularly concerned about President Trump’s statement at the West Virginia rally because he said it before. And that is, Israel’s going to have to give up something as part of a negotiation. That’s common sense.”
In addition, Zell pointed to the administration’s pro-Israel bona fides – including the selection of Bolton and Mike Pompeo, both known for their strong support for Israel, to senior positions – and policies adopted by the administration which have bolstered Israel’s security in the region.
“But, I’m not concerned primarily for two reasons. One: This is simply not the time to roll out any kind of political solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arabs in particular are not interested in sitting down and talking about us. Two: We have other problems in the region that are far more pressing: Iran and Turkey, just to name two of them.”
Zell then added a third reason: “This president, in particular, and his vice president, Mike Pence, and this incredible team of foreign policy advisors that he has around him; Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State; John Bolton, the National Security Advisor; and my friends who are councilors at the White House – they all have Israel’s back.
“We’ve never had a situation in the American-Israeli relations where we’ve had such a strong team that understands Israel’s needs and supports Israel and supports Israel’s rights to determine its own internal issues, its national security issues, and issues of its own sovereignty.
“So even if, by some miracle, they actually rolled out this so-called ‘peace plan’, this political settlement idea, and tried to implement it, I’m not concerned because I know that from Israel’s standpoint this administration will be extremely fair and sensitive to Israel’s needs.”