We have a moral obligation to protect Israel. Former Secretary of State and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo upheld this duty to the “nth degree.” “I knew that the deeper the ties between the United States and Israel, the more likely I would be at protecting America, American prosperity, and American security,” stated Pompeo.
A staunch loyalist to President Donald Trump, Pompeo sang praise for the former president as he accepted the Keter Israel Award bestowed by the Israel Heritage Foundation this past Sunday evening, March 27, in an intimate event held at Sen Sakana in Midtown Manhattan. Rabbi Dr. Joseph Frager, Executive Vice President of the foundation, read the inscription, one that set the tone for the evening’s speakers: “In honor of his steadfast support of the State of Israel and his groundbreaking recognition of Israel’s rights to Judea and Samaria.”
The dinner coincidentally coincided with another historic dinner at the Negev Peace Summit, where the foreign ministers of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco were hosted by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Such a meeting could only have been made possible through Pompeo’s involvement with Israel and the signing of the Abraham Accords. The meeting, held as part of the normalization of diplomatic ties within the region, included the presence of current US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as the diplomats sought to advance regional security architecture and counter threats by air, sea, and piracy.
Pompeo reasoned, “The Abraham Accords don’t take place without a circumstance that only G-d could have delivered,” detailing each of the players, including acknowledgement from the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia, that it was in the right direction for his own country, despite him not signing. “Take a look at the people the President brought around him – myself, Mike Pence, Dr. Ben Carson – the people who understood the relationship of the United States and Israel. I am proud to represent all those who worked so hard on this: Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, and the handful of leaders who helped us move this forward.”
Dr. Frager offered, “As our nation’s most senior diplomat, Pompeo helped craft US foreign policy based on our nation’s founding ideals.” In his list of Pompeo’s accomplishments, Frager said, “Recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights was directly overseen by Mr. Pompeo. Recognition of Israel’s legal and indigenous rights to Judea and Samaria was made clear when the Secretary declared, ‘Israeli settlements are not inconsistent with international law.’” Pompeo later visited the region, declaring it “the rightful homeland for the people of Israel.” Frager suggested that, in years to come, this area will become home for those moving to Israel. “Bringing peace to the Middle East is no easy task, but the Secretary was lightyears ahead of his predecessors in establishing the Abraham Accords.”
Jonathan Burkan, dinner co-chair along with Frager, and a guru in money management, noted how the economy has slipped tremendously since the end of the Trump era. Since Pompeo has left office, recent visits like Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad traveling to the United Arab Emirates to meet the Prime Minister have become accepted. Such meetings underline warming ties with a US-allied country that once backed rebels who sought his ouster, something that would never have occurred in a Trump Administration.
Pompeo, who recently returned from Taiwan, spoke “unplugged” from his prepared remarks, thanking his wife Susan and son Nick for their steadfast support. Pompeo’s love for Israel began when he was a cadet studying the early wars. “I was in awe of the amazing tank leaders who had overcome amazing odds. Who would have dreamed that I would one day get a chance to go back to the Golan and stand with leaders who had saved Israel as America’s Secretary of State?” Pompeo recalled an early family trip to Israel where Nick, then 15, and his wife laid down in battle positions of the tanks in the Golan based on Pompeo’s own hand-drawn maps from his studies at West Point. Pompeo spoke of his time in the House Intelligence Committee when he took a solemn taxi ride to the Babi Yar ravine in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to see firsthand the site of massacres carried out by Nazi Germany’s forces during its campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II, the first of which was the murder of some 33,771 Jews at the close of September 1941. “I got a chance to be reminded of the greatness of the Jewish tradition and the enormous risk if any of us ever so much as flinches in the face of challenges to the Jewish people.”
Stanley Sved, Vice President of IHF, joined from Philadelphia, and Farley Weiss, Chairman, traveled from Florida. Weiss said of Pompeo, “With regard to Israel, you were the best Secretary of State – and there is no close second.” Weiss noted that Pompeo was responsible for changing passports to reflect that those born in Jerusalem could indicate that they are from Israel. Weiss also mentioned that Pompeo helped end the policy of the US providing aid to the families of Palestinians who committed acts of terrorism. Amongst other accolades, Weiss pointed out that Pompeo addressed the Republican Convention from Israel.
Pete Hegseth, the popular co-host at Fox & Friends Weekend and infantry Captain in the Army National Guard, understands the sacred nature of Yerushalayim, the holy sites and the heritage of the State of Israel. “It is our job to fight back with the truth and an understanding of our Judeo-Christian heritage and the absolute eternal nature of places like Judea and Samaria.” Hegseth acknowledged that Rabbi Dr. Frager brought him to Israel on his second trip and every trip since to uncover the nooks and crannies of the State. Hegseth is scheduled to return to Israel in May to tape a Fox Nation documentary.
Jerry Wartski, President at IHF, is a Holocaust survivor born in Poland. He had been on one of the last trains to Auschwitz from Lodz. After having his parents taken, Wartski rebuilt, becoming a successful Manhattan real estate investor and bearing two sons with his beloved wife.
Rabbi Duvid Katz, IHF Executive Director, praised Pompeo with an occurrence three decades prior just before his marriage, when he spent a summer at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. His rabbi questioned how he liked his stay, adding a quote from T’hilim in the name of Rav Sonnenfeld: “Israel and Jerusalem are a mirror; as much as you love Israel and Jerusalem, they love you back.”
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America – Igud HaRabbanim, was tasked with providing Pompeo his invitation to the evening. “As a Jewish American, we should never be embarrassed of who we are and we should take pride in it.” In the name of his father, a Holocaust survivor, Mirocznik observed, “As a child going through Europe, who would ever imagine the opportunity to have a sovereign state of our own borders with soldiers protecting us and standing with us,” adding direct praise for Pompeo and his execution of the unprecedented work of the Trump administration with the well-worn motto, “For Israel to be successful, America first, Israel always, and Jerusalem forever, we need to have our friends in government who appreciate us.”
Winemaker Yaakov Berg of Psagot Winery in the West Bank named a wine after Pompeo in an expression of gratitude. Of the wine, Pompeo said, “It was so meaningful. This special place that we had come to know and love and defend and understand as the rightful home of the Jewish people, now I had a personal touch to the winery.” Pompeo recalled that his visit to the area was the biggest protest of his career, despite there only being six people present. “What was not to like of an American Secretary of State visiting this important historical place of fate inside of Israel?”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman expressed, “Real friends are hard to come by; we have a friend in Secretary Pompeo.” In 2014, Blakeman joined Frager on a trip to Israel that spanned Ashkelon and Sderot, where they were subject to missile attacks, and to East Jerusalem, where there were bombarded by rocks. Blakeman noted that former Ambassador to Israel David Friedman of Woodmere recently stated that it was Pompeo who told the State Department to finally move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Pompeo said of the embassy move, “It took a bit of work and time; we had to make the case to those who might have been interested,” adding, “The reason it had not been done before was because there was a narrative that if you move the embassy there would be war. When I was the CIA director, I realized that this could not possibly have been true.” In the Situation Room, Trump had asked for the risks if he made the decision to go ahead, to which Pompeo responded, “We had done our homework and we were confident that we could execute this in a way that we would deliver the outcome without the bad outcome.” Pompeo continued, “It was right, it was decent, and it changed the world forever.”
The event also included the presence of notables including Andrew Timothy of Virginia for his work on the IT, billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, Simon Falik, Larry and Esta Gordon, Arie Lipnick, attorney and Conservatiove voice Jonathan Nass, Marty Oliner, Judah and Carol Rein, Yaakov and Atara Serle, Jason Weingarten, and an exhaustive list of influential players.
The Israel Heritage Foundation, established as Ayshel Avraham in 1974, continues to keep the hopes and dreams of Holocaust survivors alive by supporting and strengthening Israel through aliyah, good deeds, and innovation.
By Shabsie Saphirstein