On the eve of the US presidential election, leaders of Israeli settlers in the West Bank gathered in the biblical city of Hebron to pray for victory for President Donald Trump.
It was a highly symbolic move by the settlers, who have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the president’s Mideast policies.
Monday’s gathering took place in front of a holy site revered by Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the biblical patriarch Abraham, a gesture to the Trump-brokered deals between Israel and Arab countries known as the “Abraham Accords.”
“We are grateful for his first term, and we pray that he may be elected for another four years of blessed endeavors,” said Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, mayor of Hebron’s ultranationalist Jewish community.
It was almost certainly the first time settler leaders, long ostracized by the US, have publicly prayed for victory for a sitting American president.
But Trump is unlike any of his predecessors. He has embraced Israel’s religious and nationalist right wing and showered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a string of diplomatic gifts: withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, offering a Mideast plan that would allow Israel to annex large swaths of the West Bank, including all of its settlements.
Netanyahu, while careful not to openly take sides, made little secret of his preference when he said this week he hopes Trump’s policies “will continue in the coming years.” The Palestinians, sidelined and humiliated by Trump, have been even clearer that they are pulling for Joe Biden.
The Democratic challenger has already signaled he will scrap Trump’s approach toward Iran and the Palestinians. That has raised concerns in Israel, especially on the right.
Elie Pieprz, an American-Israeli consultant who lives in the Karnei Shomron settlement, said Trump has been a “tremendous success” by rejecting policies of the past. He said, if Biden wins, he hopes he will “learn the proper lessons.”