Last night, Elder of Ziyon held a symposium in Jerusalem entitled Donald Trump: Good for the Jews?
Elder and 4 bloggers, Brian of London, Gidon Shaviv, Adam Levick, and I tackled related topics.
Here is the written text of my remarks:
How many times have you heard someone say, “Trump is the most pro-Israel president, ever.” Or maybe it was even you who said that to others.
But if you ask people why they believe Trump the most pro-Israel president ever, the answers are less than persuasive.
“Because his daughter and grandchildren are Jewish.”
Well, let’s look at that. Chelsea Clinton’s husband is Jewish and Michelle Obama’s cousin is Rabbi Capers Funye, whom the International Israelite Board of Rabbis declared the “titular head of a worldwide community of Black Jews” of the United States, the Caribbean, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria, the first black chief rabbi of the 21st century.
So. The heck. What.
Did Chelsea’s husband’s Jewishness make Hillary pro-Israel?
Did Michelle Obama’s cousin make her husband pro-Israel?
Is there some blood quantum to this equation? Trump has more Jewish relatives than the Clintons and Obamas—four, counting Jared, to just one in-law for Hillary, and one wife’s cousin for Barack Obama—so that exponentially increases his love for the Jews and Israel?
I can’t really do this sort of math so instead I press Trump supporters to explain to me why Trump’s Jewish relatives make him automatically pro-Israel. “He wouldn’t hurt his own grandchildren,” they say.
But what does that mean? Trump would have to know that his actions hurt his grandchildren in order to refrain from them. Why would he think that hurting Israel would necessarily hurt his grandchildren, whom he likely sees as 100% red-blooded Americans?
The answer is, he wouldn’t. He’d figure they are safe in America, that those missiles and terror attacks he reads about can’t touch them, so why should he worry what happens to something that’s more of an idea to his grandchildren than a home?
Even more to the point, the infamous Pew poll of 2013 found that only 30% of American Jews feel “very” attached to Israel. I grew up in a very different America where every Jew I knew felt very attached to Israel. Today, over 70% of American Jews identify as liberal. These are the Jews who have a love/hate relationship with Israel. They love Israel, but Israel embarrasses them, because they believe the lies of intersectionality. They believe that Israel is the big bad wolf, and has turned from oppressed to oppressor.
There is no longer this automatic, knee-jerk American Jewish loyalty to Israel that was the background music of my childhood in Pittsburgh and the key to the fact of my Aliyah at age 18. Therefore, it wouldn’t seem like Trump would make the association in his mind that Jews are to Israel as Americans are to apple pie.
Of course, the Kushners identify as “orthodox” as do two of Trump’s inner circle, namely Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, both of whom I’m willing to stipulate are pro-settlement. And orthodox Jews are Trump’s Jews.
While 71% of American Jews voted for Hillary, fully half of American Orthodox Jews voted for Trump. On the other hand, the Jews have been no more than 2-4% of the total electorate for the past 20 years. Did Trump have to please the Jews that care about Israel in order to gain a toehold on the presidency? Does he have to please them to stay there for 8 years? Probably not.
But he did and does have to please the Evangelical Christians who voted in numbers 15-20% more than they did in 2012 and did so, it is believed, because they felt Trump would be good for Israel. The white born-agains constitute 26% of the electorate and 81% of them voted for Trump. Since Israel is an important issue to this sector, Trump would be wise to effect a pro-Israel policy.
But there’s a funny thing about Trump and that’s the fact that he also attracts the alt right. This group is marginal. So marginal that no one knows exactly what percentage of the electorate they represent. Some say 1%, if that many. But these gun-totin’ Jew-hatin’ folks are loud and visible on the internet. They wouldn’t want Trump to make Israel the centerpiece of his policy and Trump wouldn’t want to alienate them, since they are so vocal in his favor. He likes that.
So okay, we’ve got the background: who’s a Jew, who’s in his inner circle, who voted for him, and how all of this relates to Israel. What about Trump himself? What have his words and actions said about Israel?
Well, on October 27, Trump spoke to AIPAC. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
But in January he told Sean Hannity that he didn’t want to talk about moving the embassy “It’s too early,” he said.
Now he says, “I’m thinking about it. I’m learning the issue and we’ll see what happens. It’s not an easy decision. It’s been discussed for so many years. No one wants to make this decision, and I’m thinking about it seriously.”
He’s gone from “We’re moving the embassy” to “Whether we should move the embassy.”
Then there’s the problem of how Trump has related to antisemitism. His removal of any reference to the Jewish people in his International Holocaust Day speech. The weak and mild statements made on his behalf by his press secretary about the vandalism at Jewish cemeteries. He’s “disappointed.”
On March 7, every single member of the Senate called on the president to “swiftly act” against the bomb threats, cemetery vandalism, and other expressions of antisemitism. Now why should such a call be necessary? It’s necessary because there’s a perception that Trump isn’t doing enough about the perceived rise in antisemitism. It’s likely he doesn’t want to alienate the alt right, in my opinion, as I can see no other reason for his timidity in this matter.
In Trump’s first address to Congress, on February 28, he opened with remarks about blacks and Jews and a white supremacist shooting. “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” and that was that. Jews didn’t even merit their own sentence, let alone a paragraph.
It also bears mention that while you’ve got the Jews in Trump’s inner circle, you’ve also got Mattis. Mattis believes that the U.S. friendship with Israel harms America. He said, “I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and... moderate Arabs who want to be with us... can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.”
Mattis also said that if Jews keep building in their ancestral lands Judea and Samaria, Israel will become an Apartheid state. After becoming Trump’s defense secretary, Mattis appointed pro-PLO anti-Israel Anne Patterson as his undersecretary of defense for policy. And though the appointment has since been withdrawn, in 2014, Patterson gave testimony to Congress, defending the PA for paying salaries to terrorists and their families. “They need to provide for the families,” she said.
When Mahmoud Shalan, an Arab terrorist with American citizenship was shot and mortally wounded while attempting to murder Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint, Patterson called Israel out on the carpet, demanding an explanation for Shalan’s death. Steven Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was murdered by Arab terrorists noted that Patterson did not demand an explanation from the PA as to why Shalan, a resident of PA territory, went out to murder Israelis.
So much for Mattis.
What about David Friedman? Well so far, he’s recanted every strong right wing view he has in the past voiced about Israel just to get through the hearings. It is only natural that he would say he may believe one thing but will act as Trump’s servant, but it isn’t very comforting to those of us who looked at his hopefully soon-to-be confirmed role as US ambassador to Israel. We actually have no idea at this point whether he’ll have any impact on Trump. Still, as my follower Herb Glatter says, “The fact that Trump nominated Friedman speaks volumes to me, hope he is approved.”
This is similar to another follower’s comment on my recent article about Richard Gere, “Hollywood people should be ignored. I hope this will be one outcome of the Trump presidency,” to which I responded, “It’s only gotten worse!”
Then there’s Nikki Haley, Trump’s appointee as UN ambassador who has already said great things that have never been said and needed to be said in the UN, for instance, “I just put out to the members of the Security Council to help me understand: When we have so much going on in the world, why is it that every single month we’re going to sit down and have a hearing where all they do is obsess over Israel?”
But then she walked back Trump’s walk back of the two-state solution. Seriously? Who needs more of this tired old unworkable idea that pleases neither side? And she said it in Trump’s name.
And I look at the way Trump surprised Israel’s right wing by asking Netanyahu to hold off on settlement building. It was completely unexpected by the Israeli government and they’ve been thrown for a loop. According to the Jewish Press, Israel Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said, “Trump’s request to restrict settlement expansion caught us by surprise.”
Bibi didn’t expect it. Bayit Yehudi didn’t expect it. And now they’re all between a rock and a hard place. Which is ridiculous. They don’t want to alienate Trump so they’re not going to build. Meantime, there was no way to UN alienate Obama, but they didn’t build for 8 years.
When does Israel get to act like a sovereign nation and build because it needs to build? Because Jews need homes. Because homes are not provocations or obstacles to peace, but only living spaces for Jewish Israelis. It’s ridiculous.
Now there are media reports that Trump told Abbas he sees him as a legitimate leader. You know, the guy whose term in office ended 8 years ago? Trump also told Abbas that he supports a deal that would expand the PLO’s control over Judea, Samaria, and bits and pieces of Jerusalem. During the same call, Trump invited Abbas to the White House for an official visit. The next day, Trump’s administration moved $250m in taxpayer money to the PA.
Apparently because Trump knows he’s seen as pro-Israel, he bolstered his credibility with Abbas by icing plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. This is also the apparent reason Trump told Bibi not to build homes for Jews on state lands in their indigenous territory, Judea and Samaria. The next thing Trump did was send Jason Greenblatt to Jerusalem to pressure Bibi not to build a new Jewish settlement in Samaria. While he’s here, Greenblatt will also lay out the framework for another sure-to-fail round of negotiations with Fatah, then off he’ll go to Ramallah to spend quality time with Abbas.
Oh, and by the way, Trump’s orthodox Jewish daughter and son in law are also planning to cozy up to Abbas in Ramallah with a charming little afternoon tête-à-tête during their upcoming visit to Israel.
So here’s the thing: Trump ran on a platform of making America great again. Supposedly this means he doesn’t want to give money to foreign entities. He wants to improve the American economy. Yet he just enriched PLO coffers. Meantime, he talks about the Iran deal being the worst deal ever, yet continues to provide material support to Iran, including, according to Adam Kredo of the Free Beacon, airplanes. I quote:
“The Trump administration's Treasury Department informed the Free Beacon on Monday that it would continue to grant licenses to companies such as Boeing so that they can pursue multi-billion dollar deals with Iran.
“This policy, started by the Obama administration as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, is opposed by many on Capitol Hill and runs counter to campaign trail promises by President Donald Trump to end such agreements.”
Republican lawmakers are supposedly furious but the White House is remaining mum. Some say it’s about the slow changeover of Treasury and State Department staff positions. But who really knows?
Which is why I didn’t vote for Trump to begin with. He’s uncouth. He has no experience in government and no one actually knows what he will do in office, despite the messianic fervor of his die-hard supporters. I almost voted for Hillary to keep him OUT of office. I figured that with Hillary, we’d get the devil we know. With her, we knew we’d be getting more of the same. No surprises.
With Trump? So far he’s taken Israel by surprise in asking us not to build. We don’t know what the future holds. In fact, we’re still walking on egg shells with him every bit as much as we did with his predecessor in the Oval Office, for all the protestations of Jew-love and friendship.
Bibi and Trump made for a great photo op, but what have we really to show for that trip? More airplanes to Iran. And no homes for the people of Amona.