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Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, found inspiration in the writings of Xenophon, a contemporary of Socrates, who chronicled the life of the great Persian, King Cyrus, whose vast empire was known for toleration of religious minorities and for demanding no single state religion.
For his military prowess and political statesmanship, Cyrus is the most admired ancient king, a hero to Alexander the Great, future Greco-Roman leaders, and philosophers of both the European and American Enlightenment.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, and modern Iran’s last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also considered Cyrus a model.
When U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, over the objections of his State Department, he entered Jewish history. Soon after he left office, in November 1953, Truman met with leaders at the Jewish Theological Seminary, accompanied by his former Army buddy, business partner, and lifelong good friend Eddie Jacobson. Jacobson introduced Truman: “This is the man who helped create the state of Israel.” Truman asserted, “What do you mean, ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus. I am Cyrus.”
Truman was honest, not immodest. Though he lacked a college education, as a boy he had studied the Hebrew Bible (known to him as the Christian Old Testament) which celebrated Cyrus II (“the Great”) for defeating the Babylonian empire in 539 B.C. and subsidizing the return to Jerusalem of the Jewish community that been held captive in Babylon for 70 years.
Cyrus’s successors allowed the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple and city walls. Throughout the two-and-a-half millennia of historical difficulties that followed, Cyrus has been the symbol of the righteous gentile ruler who promoted the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and promoted Jewish security against enemies.
Today, President Donald Trump has established himself as another in the long line of pro-Israel American leaders, with a record that history will record as among the best.
First, Trump quickly got the U.S.-Israel special alliance back on track after the extraordinary hostility of his predecessor. Barack Obama, mentored by a range of anti-Israel thinkers including Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Ali Abunimah, and Pastor Jeremiah Wright, sought to reverse the warm political goodwill expressed to Israel by President George W. Bush.
Obama asserted it was time for “daylight” between the United States and Israel. He pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on land settlement policy, including building apartments in Jerusalem. Obama advocated and then immediately reversed his position that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital. He called for an Israeli return to the 1967 armistice lines, widely considered indefensible borders. Speaking in Cairo, Obama pandered to Arabs by equating Palestinian demands with Israeli statehood, which he claimed resulted from the Holocaust, rather than 3,000 years of Jewish history.
Ignoring wide objection in Israel, Obama tilted toward the Iran, which threatens to annihilate Israel, conducts aggressive regional terrorism, and remains at war with the United States. In the political battle over the Iran nuclear deal, Obama disclosed secret Israeli military actions in Syria and hinted that American Jews were dual loyalists.
Finally, opening the door to the deteriorating relationship between the American Left and Israel, Obama crossed the line to support an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations.
Acting quickly, President Trump rejected the flawed Iran deal and re-imposed sanctions on the Iranians, hitting them in the pocket and challenging their hegemonic ambitions.
Trump’s administration consistently has combated the anti-Israel posture of so many at the United Nations. The president also signed the Taylor Force Act which prevents U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinians until they cease payments to the families of terrorists, and he closed the PLO mission in Washington, D.C. for failing to offer sincere efforts at peacemaking.
Finally, in moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and now recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, President Trump has powerfully put into diplomatic and strategic deeds his own heartfelt words: “My administration will always stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and we will always stand strong with our cherished friend and partner, the state of Israel.”
Photo Credit: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949