At the brand-new Museum of Tolerance, highlights from the signing of the Abraham Accords played as the former President’s daughter and son-in-law, former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration alumni mingled with the rich and powerful over ceviche, steaks, and plenty of drinks.
Huge, black-fringed table lamps towered over the curious selection of guests — including NFL star Peyton Manning and FIFA President Gianni Infantino — at one of several open bars.
The whole event had an “Alice in Wonderland” feel, as if those present had tumbled through the looking glass and into an alternate reality where Donald Trump was still President of the United States and Benjamin Netanyahu was still Prime Minister of Israel.
In theory, this was a launch party for the Friedman Center for Peace Through Strength, an organization founded by the former US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, which seeks to advance the Abraham Accords — the September 2020 deal, brokered by the US, to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
In practice, it felt like a Trump reunion, and a campaign event for Pompeo, who received an award recognizing his work on the Abraham Accords, while assiduously avoiding reporters.
Many attendees wished out loud that Pompeo would run for US President in 2024 — something he is reportedly considering, if Trump doesn’t run again.
“We need to order the Pompeo wine!” said a diplomat’s wife at the bar, on learning that some of the drinks on offer were from the Psagot winery, located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank that named one of its reds after Pompeo last year.
Others were even more explicit.
“Time ran out on the Trump administration, and we saw some of your achievements backslide, but hopefully President Pompeo will continue that path,” billionaire philanthropist Sylvan Adams, a co-chair of the event, said — to huge applause — before adding that he thought Pompeo and the Abraham Accords architects would have been a “much more deserving” winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The US and Israel’s current leaders, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, may as well not have existed. Just one serving member of the Israeli cabinet — Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked — appeared to be in attendance.
In a brief interview with CNN at the event, Friedman said he had stayed in close touch with the Trump administration alumni who flew out for the event and that it hadn’t been difficult to get them to make the long journey to Israel. Kushner and Trump arrived at 4am on Monday and left the same evening.
“I love all these people: Jared, Ivanka, Mnuchin, Pompeo; We worked very closely together, we really liked each other — which is unusual, by the way, for administrations in politics — and it’s just good to see everyone here in Jerusalem,” he said.
Earlier in the day at the Israeli parliament Kushner, Trump, Netanyahu and others had attended the launch of the Abraham Accord caucus. The caucus, made up of more than 100 members of parliament, aims to work on measures that expand the Abraham Accords.
And while the evening’s festivities appeared to be a toast to the Trump administration, the Knesset event had the feel of a Netanyahu campaign rally.
Almost every time the former Israeli PM’s name was mentioned, parts of the audience broke out into applause. The same could not be said whenever Biden or Bennett’s names came up.
When Netanyahu arrived — halfway through the event — with wife Sara in tow, about a quarter of the audience gave a standing ovation, despite the fact that Morocco’s Ambassador to Israel was mid-speech at the time.
During his own address Netanyahu feted himself, quoting passages from his book and old speeches that he said perfectly laid out how peace with Arab nations could be achieved.
Hailing the work carried out by the Trump administration to get such deals done, Netanyahu said he believed he and Kushner, along with the rest of Trump’s team, had “changed history.”
Just a few hours later Netanyahu, who appears to have taken a page out of the former president’s playbook on how to treat your successor, lambasted Bennett from the Knesset stage, saying he was “not a real prime minister.”
For both Netanyahu and the Trump crew, this was a day spent relishing past glories, looking back to what had been and forward — perhaps — to what might come again.