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Washington Wrap: Trump Un-Moored?

Omri Nahmias

The fraught Alabama Senate race puts Trump’s instincts to the test

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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“I think that the American government has serious intentions, but as has happened in the past, they’re in for a disappointment. They’re going to see the reality as it is: the problem is that the Palestinians don’t want peace. The Palestinian Authority is not only not part of the solution, it is the heart of the problem”

D onald Trump has taken a big gamble with Roy Moore. In ten days, critical elections will be held for the Senate seat in Alabama vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions due to his appointment as attorney general. The Republican majority in the Senate is currently very narrow, with 52 seats versus 48 for the Democrats. If Democratic candidate Doug Jones takes Alabama, that balance would shift to a razor-sharp 51–49. Such a slim majority would make it more difficult for the president to advance his agenda, including tax and health care reform, in the Senate.

The Republican candidate, Roy Moore, has been facing accusations over inappropriate behavior for two weeks. Last week, his chances looked so bad that there was talk of somehow reinstating Sessions in his seat. Since then, the volume has been lowered.

On Sunday of this week, President Trump took to Twitter to clarify why Republicans need to support Moore: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the BORDER,” the president wrote. But this explanation has a deeper meaning as well. During the Republican primaries in September, Trump supported the candidate favored by Mitch McConnell and the establishment, Luther Strange. By doing so, he disregarded his gut feeling and the advice of Steve Bannon, who supported Moore. Now he is determined to make up for that mistake and follow his instincts to the end. “I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama Primary,” he added. “He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough. Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race.”

At press time, the polls are very close and the candidates seem neck and neck. If Moore wins, Trump will rack up points as a political maverick who went against the flow and stuck with the winning horse. He’ll also strengthen the Bannon camp and deal a blow to McConnell, who thought that Moore should withdraw from the race. But if Moore loses, Trump will take the flack for misreading the cards and the voters.

Coffee Break With Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin

I met Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on his way out from an interview with the Christian CBN network, and joined him for a car ride through Washington. The minister was on a quick 48-hour trip to the city to promote Israeli tourism and to inaugurate the new Bible Museum in the capital. I ordered the coffee at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue while the minister took a few minutes for a photo op in front of the White House. 

O: What kind of meetings did you hold on Capitol Hill?

Y: I discussed tourism-related issues with members of Congress. We have to increase the number of direct flights from North America to Israel. This year, we will see a record 800,000 tourists from the United States, and El Al will begin operating a new route to Miami, but we still need to add flights from other locations, such as Washington, Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. I think that it’s financially feasible. I’ve held meetings with the management of United Airlines, and I hope we will see additional routes, because we’ve seen that every time a new route opens, there’s a significant increase in the number of tourists to Israel.

O: How much does Trump’s diplomatic initiative worry you?

Y: I think that the American government has serious intentions, but as has happened in the past, they’re in for a disappointment. They’re going to see the reality as it is: the problem is that the Palestinians don’t want peace. The Palestinian Authority is not only not part of the solution, it is the heart of the problem.

Ultimately, the change in the American policy as we have seen to date is welcome — the walk back from the two-state solution and the new equation whereby the Palestinian side pays a price for its refusal to concede anything. Recognizing a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy, and recognizing our sovereignty over the Golan, are two steps that will greatly contribute towards expediting the process — more effectively than any other effort to hold talks. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 687)

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