As an American Christian who has had the privilege of working in senior-level positions for four US presidents and who has enjoyed a close association with three of Israel’s prime ministers, I believe it is my obligation to provide the Israeli people with my views. I think my viewpoint is important because a vast number of American Evangelical Christians believe as I believe. In addition, Evangelical Christians are, without question, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.
On the other hand, I am ever mindful that because I am not an Israeli citizen, and not even a Jew, to inject myself into your Israeli election is a highly sensitive act. However, for the sake of Zion, I will not be silent. So I beg your forgiveness in advance.
With that in mind, I trust that the people of Israel will carefully consider the credentials of all those seeking election to the prime minister’s office. Personalities are not what’s important. What’s important is the outcome of what will, or will not be accomplished through their leadership.
For the past several months, I have talked with Israelis and others who have vested interests the future of Israel. Opinions vary greatly. However, the consensus I found is that there is only one candidate who is deemed to be able to move Israel forward, considering the current political climate and the hostile world stage.
Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel has enjoyed unprecedented economic success. Since the 2009 elections, when he began his second term in office, the standard of living in Israel has risen by 55% in real terms; GDP has increased 40% from $30,000 to $42,000; unemployment has dropped from 7.5% to under 4%. Therefore, Israeli citizens are far better off than they were before Netanyahu took office. Average wages have increased by 25%; restaurants are full, and record numbers of Israelis are vacationing overseas; inequality has narrowed; and the percentage of the budget devoted to education, health and welfare has increased significantly.
In my view, and based upon the numerous conversations that I have had with Israeli citizens, Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader with a proven economic track record. Gantz, Ya’alon and Ashkenazi have no experience to draw upon. And Lapid’s record as finance minister was not impressive.
Netanyahu has greatly improved Israel’s international standing. He has translated Israel’s growing economic and technological prowess into impressive diplomatic achievements. He has restored ties with several African nations, including Muslim countries. He has created regional alliances with Greece and Cyprus, and has hosted a non-stop stream of foreign leaders. Under Netanyahu, Israel has become a regional power, developing ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, thereby harnessing common interests – primarily the fear of Iran.
This occurred in spite of protestations that such ties could not be developed without progress on the Palestinian issue. In addition, Netanyahu has also strengthened Israel’s ties in Asia, and has upgraded relations with Japan and India. He has produced a dramatic increase in trade with China and opened new markets in the region. As if that weren’t enough, thanks to Netanyahu, ties with South America have also blossomed. And in spite of the complex situation in Syria, he has strengthened relationships with Russia.
One of Netanyahu’s greatest achievements is the recognition by the United States and other countries of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In addition, The US and other countries are in the process of recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Another success is that the label “occupied territory” has been removed from official US State Department language on the West Bank.
No other Israeli leader has had, or would have had, the tenacity and long-term vision to create such dramatic changes in Israel’s diplomatic standing. Nor would they have been willing and able to achieve these strategic foreign policy goals. Netanyahu has also demonstrated an iron-willed backbone stance regarding international pressure. He faced down president Barack Obama on the settlements and on the nuclear deal. Netanyahu’s influence and effort enabled a reversal of the Iran nuclear deal under US President Donald Trump. No other Israeli leader could have generated such achievements on the international stage.
Think about all the critical defense and strategic challenges that Israel constantly faces. During his tenure, Netanyahu has stood up to and handled them very well. For example, he has exercised caution in the use of force, but at the same time he has not hesitated to act on multiple fronts where necessary.
The Gaza belt has experienced significantly fewer numbers of rockets fired at Israel. In fact, residents of the Gaza belt enjoyed the most extended quiet period since the 2005 disengagement, except for the 2018 use of incendiary balloons. In Syria, Netanyahu has managed to keep Iranians from building up capabilities to use against Israel, both through extensive strikes on Iranian targets and weapon deliveries to local proxies. In addition, he leveraged diplomatic influence via Russia.
I trust that the Israeli people will forgive my temerity in offering these thoughts. I believe that the future of Israel is of such vital importance to the world, to the United States and to the Evangelical Christian community that I felt it is my responsibility to overcome my sensitivity to, and my reluctance to being seen as, interfering.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jerusalem Post