SPECIAL COVERAGE FROM WASHINGTON: An Interview With Yesha Leader Oded Revivi

Oded Revivi (Gershon Elinson/Flash90, File)

Hamodia’s special coverage of inauguration weekend live from Washington continues, with an interview with Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat in Yehudah and Chief Foreign Envoy for the Yesha Council (which represents the interests of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron, and the former Jewish communities in Gaza). Revivi is a leader of the settlement movement and a prominent advocate for the rights of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron (known collectively as “Yesha.”)

Oded Revivi was among a number of Israeli officials – including three on the Yesha Council – who were invited by the Inaugural Committee to attend President Trump’s inauguration.

Opposition to Israeli expansion in Yesha was a centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s Mideast peace program, to the dismay of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the settlement movement in general. However, President Donald Trump has signaled a much more sympathetic attitude to Israeli rights in Yesha. Though as a Republican presidential candidate, Trump initially caused some consternation among pro-Israelis when he said he would be “neutral” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has more recently been causing them joyous anticipation for his administration, as he has promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim (thereby recognizing the latter’s status as capital of Israel) and has nominated David Friedman, a staunch supporter of Jewish communities in Yesha, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

I spent a pleasant Shabbos in Washington with a number of the Israeli representatives, and on Motzoei Shabbos, Revivi – who has been involved in the Yesha Council for the eight years he has been mayor of Efrat, and became the Council’s Chief Foreign Envoy seven months ago – granted Hamodia an exclusive interview.

Revivi says that attending his first U.S. presidential inauguration “was an extremely exciting experience.”

“It was a very festive event,” says the mayor. “And the fact that it’s the first time that the Yesha Council was invited made it also very special for us – that we were representing the Yesha Council.”

I ask Revivi whether Israelis – particularly those in the settlement movement – are looking forward to the Trump administration having a positive attitude toward Israel, and particularly the issue of Jewish communities in Yesha.

“Definitely,” says Revivi. “It seems like they are coming with a very positive attitude, and definitely a change to what we are used to from the Obama Administration.”

“In what way?” I ask.

“The Obama Administration came up with ideas that were disconnected from reality, and in that respect, it created an atmosphere of frustration on both sides.”

And what were these “ideas” of the Obama Administration “that were disconnected from reality”?

“The suggestion that the settlements are the obstacle for peace,” says Revivi, “and the attempt to cause a building freeze and hoping that would bring Palestinains to the negotiating table.

“Those things we know in retrospect did not promote peace and just made things more complicated.”

Revivi says that Netanyahu had been extremely concerned with the Obama Administration’s attitude toward the settlements, and therefore, “during the past three years, no new building plans were approved in Yesha. No new structures at all were built during that time, even in existing settlements.”

And what sort of differences has he seen from the incoming Trump Administration?

“We have not had much contact with the incoming administration yet,” says the mayor. But thus far, “judging by his nominations” – Revivi specifically notes the Friedman nomination – “and the fact that the Yesha Council was invited to the inauguration, it’s definitely giving us hope that things will change.”