On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address. He spoke about many important issues, especially on topics of national security and our security interests in the Middle East. In the course of his speech, the President made some strong and encouraging statements for Jewish and pro-Israel Americans.
Last year, it was special to hear the President of the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a State of the Union speech for the first time. Then this week, another first: To hear the President refer to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, not only when the U.S. Embassy is actually there, but also when several other countries have followed his courageous example.
It was also the first State of the Union speech since our withdrawal from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. As a lifelong advocate of Israel, I find it significant and reassuring that our President condemns the Iranian government for the extremist, anti-Semitic, genocidal, authoritarian regime that it is.
As a Jewish American, I was moved by how the President spoke out against the horrific massacre in Pittsburgh this fall. When the President celebrated two remarkable individuals who survived the shooting - Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor, and Timothy Matson, a heroic SWAT officer who took the killer down - the nation celebrated. And to see another Holocaust survivor, Joshua Kaufman, reunited with Herman Zeitchik, one of the American soldiers who rescued him from Dachau, was beautiful beyond words.
Yet, it is also as a Jewish American and an advocate for Israel that I must address what President Trump did not say. As strong as his speech was in some areas, the gaps are just as significant.
President Trump spoke about the tragedy in Pittsburgh and the heroism of the SWAT officer who ended it, but he spoke about the shooting like it was an isolated incident. In actuality, the Pittsburgh shooting was the worst of an expanding pattern of anti-Semitic hate crime and violence. Violence against Jews has continued since that attack. President Trump mentioned neither these other attacks nor anti-Semitism nor white supremacy. Out of respect for those who were murdered in Pittsburgh, we must not neglect the broader picture.
Moreover, President Trump addressed the threat posed by Iran and its desire to destroy Israel, yet he neglected to mention that Iran's greatest threat to Israel today is its presence in Syria. While the President has every right to be proud of his role in taking down ISIS, he cannot forget that ISIS is not the only dangerous faction that took advantage of the Syrian Civil War; Iranian forces, as well as Iran-backed proxies like Hezbollah, have laid roots in Syria. If President Trump withdraws the U.S. entirely from Syria, Israel and other U.S. allies will be faced with a stronger, more confident Iran.
Overall, I was encouraged by the message of unity that pervaded President Trump's speech. My hope is that between now and the next State of the Union address, President Trump and all our other elected representatives will always keep the full picture in mind.
American Jewish Congress