Yishai Fleisher is the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron, and advocates for the indigenous and sovereign rights of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria. His commentary has been published in publications such as Newsweek, the New York Times, and Israel National News, and he has been a featured commentator on CNN, Al Jazeera, Fox News, BBC, and others.
The author now interviews Mr. Fleisher on Israel’s relations with the U.S. under the Biden administration and the future of the Abraham Accords.
Steve Postal: The Biden administration said last week that it is strongly opposed to Israeli expansion in Judea and Samaria, yet others are reporting that the Biden administration ultimately will not push the issue. As a resident of Judea and Samaria, do you think settlement building will become an issue for U.S.-Israel relations under the Biden administration?
Yishai Fleisher: On this issue, the Biden administration is a continuation of the Obama administration, albeit the former was more subtle in its approach. The Biden administration is seeking to stop Jewish progress in Judea and Samaria and will push for a two-state solution. But they are not putting overt pressure on this as of now, and Israel has green-lighted construction of 3,000 homes in Judea and Samaria. Ultimately, the key is how willing the current Israeli government will be to build and exercise sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
Postal: Despite the Biden administration’s initial indications that it supports opening a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, the State Department stated that it needs Israel’s approval for the consulate. What are your thoughts on these developments?
Fleisher: U.S. support for a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem is tantamount to supporting the division of Jerusalem, and to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of not only Israel but of a Palestinian state. It also serves to undo former President Trump’s closure of the consulate.
Postal: Some believe that Israel’s strategic victories in striking Iran’s nuclear facilities and its infrastructure in Syria are not convincing the Biden administration to switch gears on Iran. What do you see as Israel and the United States’ course of action on Iran moving forward?
Fleisher: Everyone in the region wants Iran to be contained, and Israel is the only one in the region that is able to accomplish this. If anything, Israel’s allies are disappointed in Israel for not doing more. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the Biden administration wants, because for Israel (and its regional allies), this is an existential issue. Israel must also take out the Iranian missiles from Gaza and south Lebanon, as we need to de-militarize and “de-missilize” those places. The Iron Dome is great but not sufficient.
Postal: Naftali Bennett has now been prime minister for over four months. What do you think of his government so far?
Fleisher: It’s a mixed bag so far. On the one hand, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state, which is good. But on the other hand, this government has enfranchised and legitimized the Ra’am party.
Postal: We spoke earlier about your concerns about the Ra’am Party, which is an Islamist, anti-Zionist party that is now in Israel’s governing coalition. How has Ra’am’s actions met your expectations?
Fleisher: Ra’am has been able to secure significant funding for legitimized illegal Arab building in the Negev desert. Additionally, they have normalized Hamas-like views in Israel’s governing coalition, and these views undermine the very foundations of the Jewish state of Israel. I believe that Arabs certainly have a right to representation in Israel, but not to these ends.
I support Jewish and Arab cooperation within the framework of the Abraham Accords, with the Jewish ethnic national state partnering with Arab ethnic national states. However, Ra’am seeks to undermine Israel’s standing as a Jewish ethnic national state, so I cannot support them. If there was ever a Jewish party within the United Arab Emirates that sought to similarly undermine the UAE, the Emiratis would reject such a party. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is illegal there, while Ra’am, a similar party, thrives here in Israel.
Postal: Recently, the first Israeli public flight landed in Saudi Arabia. Do you think that Saudi Arabia and/or other Muslim-majority countries will normalize relations with Israel under the tenure of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Biden administration?
Fleisher: I believe Saudi Arabia will normalize relations with Israel in the near future. This becomes less likely given the Biden administration’s numerous anti-Saudi policies. However, I believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desires to defend against Iran and modernize his country’s economy will prevail, and that Saudi Arabia will join the Abraham Accords.
I also think it’s possible that there could be a regional airline alliance, much like the Star Alliance, incorporating Israeli (El Al), Emirati (Etihad, Emirates, Fly Dubai), Bahraini (Gulf Air) Saudi (Saudia), and Egyptian (Egyptair) airlines.
But the key to the Abraham Accords is that in its moniker, the Trump administration fixed the lie that the Jews were occupiers in this land. We are indigenous and self-determinative, and embrace cooperation with our cousins in the region who respect these facts.
Postal: Do you think Benjamin Netanyahu will be prime minister again?
Fleisher: I think there are opportunities for newer voices in Likud to lead the party and the country. But Israeli politics are completely unpredictable.
The author would like to thank Mr. Yishai Fleisher for participating in this interview.