The Crafters Of The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance
This past week, it was announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Donald Trump will hold their first Oval Office meeting on February 15th. After eight years of a tenuous relationship between the White House and the Prime Minister's Office, many people, like myself, are optimistic as to what future this meeting will bring for Israeli- U.S. relations. Participants in this meeting will not be limited just to President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Even more importantly, the meeting will consist of their closest advisors and confidants, who will be tasked with working together to repair this strong bilateral alliance. While both leaders have many aides, it's important to get to know the backgrounds of the few who will be influencing their bosses' decisions on issues regarding the U.S.- Israel partnership.
On the American side:
1) Jared Kushner
Kushner, 36, is the Orthodox Jewish son-in-law of President Trump. Originally from New Jersey and a graduate of the Frisch School, he works in the White House as the Senior Advisor to the President, advising Trump on nearly every issue. Kushner, like his father-in-law, is also a wealthy businessman who works in real estate. Both his mother and sister are graduates of Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women, to which their family has donated a lot of money. President Trump has tasked Kushner with solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recently saying of his son-in-law that "if he can't make peace in the Middle East, no one can." Kushner was the only US official to join Trump in his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu last September.
2) David Friedman
Friedman, 58, is President Trump's nominee for the post of United States Ambassador to Israel. Previously, he worked as a bankruptcy lawyer who represented Mr. Trump and his family in several court cases since 2005. The son of a Conservative Rabbi, Friedman was born and raised in Long Island and still lives there today. He is also the President of American Friends of Beit El (Beit El is an Israeli community in Judea and Samaria). Friedman owns an apartment in Jerusalem, where he has pledged to work and live once he takes up his post. Friedman is described by Trump as a "long-time friend and trusted adviser, whose strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission."
3) Jason Greenblatt
Greenblatt, 49, currently works at the White House as President Trump's assistant for international negotiations. He previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of The Trump Organization, where he worked for twenty years. Greenblatt has known President Trump longer than any other White House official and is a graduate of both the Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) and Yeshiva College. He also recently worked as a professor at the Sy Syms School of Business, where he taught a class entitled "The Anatomy of a Real Estate Deal." When appointing Greenblatt to his White House staff, Trump described him as "brilliant and terrific at everything he does."
On the Israeli side:
1) Ron Dermer
Dermer, 45, is Israel's ambassador to the United States. He is originally from Miami Beach, where both his father and brother served as Mayor. Dermer recently served as the Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and is said to still be the Prime Minister's closest confidant. He comes from an Orthodox family, and both his wife and sister are graduates of Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women. Dermer has a close relationship with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor. Last year, he even gave Mr. Kushner advice on what Mr. Trump should speak about at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. Dermer was the only Israeli official to join Prime Minister Netanyahu in his meeting with President Trump last September.
2) Jonathan Schachter
Schachter, 46, is currently the Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, a job he has held for nearly four years. He was born and raised in Chicago, where he worked as a college professor before making aliyah. His area of expertise is counter-terrorism, previously serving as a soldier in the IDF's Counter-Terrorism Unit, as Director of Counter-Terrorism Studies at the Israeli Institute of National Strategic Studies, and as Director of American Affairs on Israel's National Security Council. Schachter advises the Prime Minister on all aspects of foreign policy, particularly on Israeli-US relations, and is said to have established a close relationship with President Trump's incoming ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
3) Jacob Nagel
Nagel, 60, is the acting head of Israel's National Security Council. He currently works in the Prime Minister's Office as Netanyahu's National Security Advisor. Nagel is a native-born Israeli, who served in the IDF with the rank of General. Nagel was in charge of negotiating the recent defense memorandum between Israel and the United States. He also traveled to the United States this past December to meet with his new counterpart, General Michael Flynn. While not very political, Nagel will be one of Netanyahu's key people in maintaining Israel's security cooperation with the United States, under the new Trump administration.