One of the easiest ways to start a heated argument these days is to claim that Donald Trump is unquestionably NOT “the best friend Israel ever had.” For many American Jews and non-Jews alike especially - those who view politics mostly through the “blue and white” Israeli lens - 45’s moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and then recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights provided more than enough brownie points to earn him the exalted title of “The best friend Israel ever had.”. Gee, and I have long been of the opinion that when it comes to Israel - or Canaan, Judea, Palestine Eretz Yisrael or whatever you choose to call it - Moses, Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion dwarf the man who currently occupies the White House.
Like the vast majority of American Jews, I am both a staunch Zionist and an ohayv Yisrael (a lover of Israel). Unlike many, I am able to read, speak, write and understand both ancient and modern Hebrew with a reasonable degree of proficiency, and am a close student of both her history and politics. Again, like a majority of American Jews, I am not a particular fan of P.M. Netanyahu, am totally against the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) Movement, and am a devoted Democrat. I find no disparity between loving and supporting the Jewish State and finding fault with - and speaking out against - various policies, principles and politicians whenever necessary. To my way of thinking, this does not make me - or those who are of similar mind - any less a Zionist than those whose litmus test is 100% fealty. Sorry guys: Democracy should not - and in fact does not - make any such demands.
Which gets us back to the question of whether or not Boss Tweet is “the best friend Israel ever had.” The answer has to be a resounding NO!! While there are dozens upon dozens (hundreds?) of idiotic, mean-spirited, mendacious anti-democratic things ‘45 has done to make his eventual historic ranking beneath that of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Zachary Taylor and Warren G. Harding, the one which should truly bother American Jews the most is his making Israel a wedge issue in American politics. To wit, the POTUS - with the knowing acquiescence of Bibi Netanyahu - have done the unthinkable: turned support for Israel - which for decades has been a bipartisan imperative - into a political wedge issue. Trump, with the active support of Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner, have done everything in their power to convince America that Democrats are anti-Israel anti-Semites while Republicans are the only people who “truly can be counted on” to support Israel. As the New York Times’ Tom Friedman noted just the other day, Few things are more dangerous to Israel’s long-term interests than its becoming a partisan matter in America, which is Israel’s vital political, military and economic backer in the world.
As I noted in an essay posted last February (Politics - Like Acting and Aging - Ain’t For Sissies) ‘45’s strategy for reelection would involve turning the as yet unnamed “Squad” into the face of the Democratic Party, thus hopefully shoring up his support among evangelical Christians (who form the largest pro-Zionist bloc in America) while convincing more and more Jews that if they love Israel, they must vote Republican.
(It should be noted that a majority of white evangelicals consider Israel to be the Jesus Landing Pad. Once all the Jews congregate in Jerusalem, Jesus can return with his flaming sword. Jews who refuse to accept him as their savior will die. In other words, Jews are nothing more than eschatological doormats for white evangelicals.)
The “Trumptanyahu” strategy vis-à-vis keeping two duly elected Muslim members of Congress from entering Israel (Reps. Omar and Tlaib) is the bottom of the barrel. Yes, both of these women (along with the other two members of “the Squad” - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts) are supporters of the BDS movement and would never, ever get my vote. Nonetheless, it is up to the voters of their districts - not the Israeli P.M. and certainly not the POTUS - to cast judgment on them by driving a lethal spike into the heart of the democratic principles which have guided our countries for generations. Historically, no president has ever - and I mean EVER - forced a foreign leader to deny duly elected members of Congress from entering his/her country. By doing so, it shows that both Trump and Netanyahu are more interested in being reelected than in preserving democratic values. Bibi caved after reading a Trump tweet to the effect that permitting Omar and/or Tlaib entry would be a sign of “weakness.” It should be kept in mind that Netanyahu, like Trump is facing national elections, which he- again like Trump - must win in order to keep from going on trial for corruption. And, in order to win and retain his position as P.M., he must stay in the good graces of the most conservative, ultra-nationalist factions in Israel’s political universe . . . just as ‘45 must cater to his political base made up largely of ultra-conservative, pro-gun white evangelicals. The two - ‘45 and Bibi - are in their way, fraternal twins. Indeed, many a pundit has declared “Netanyahu is pretty much identical to Trump . . . but with a better vocabulary - in 2 different languages.”
‘45’s latest foray into foreign policy via tweet has drawn harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle. Even the vaunted, establishmentarian AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) has broken with the president over the Tlaib/Omar fiasco. "We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand," AIPAC tweeted this past Thursday. Both Florida Senator Marco Rubio and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) chastised P.M. Netanyahu (though not the president by name) for denying entry to two members of Congress. Said Senator Rubio, “I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel & am the author of the #AntiBDS bill we passed in the Senate,” he tweeted. “But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake. Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called Israel’s decision to bar the two representatives “outrageous,” and revealed that in recent exhaustive talks with Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, that they would be permitted their visit. But then the POTUS became involved and all bets were off.
This of course puts Democrats in a politically dicey situation; condemning many of Omar’s and Tlaib’s comments (and rightfully so) while supporting their right to visit Israel and perhaps see how democracy works - even if not perfectly so - in the Middle East.
Trump and Netanyahu share many political commonalities . . . not the least of which is gleefully putting short-term gains (e.g. reelection) before long-term progress.
In any event, it is growing clearer every day that Donald Trump is NOT the “best friend Israel ever had.” And those who ignore all the other noxious aspects of his being, ultimately do so at the sake of weakening and perhaps losing the state they truly love. For with the exception of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, he hasn’t done jack. What he has done is go against virtually every Jewish value handed down from Mt. Sinai, codified in rabbinic literature and passed on from generation to generation.
That is definitely not the mark of a haver - a “friend”.
So go ahead . . . attack me, call me an anti-Semite; tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about; insist that I am a deluded liberal stooge . . . but please try and do it in Hebrew if you can.
445 days until the next presidential election.
Copyright©2019 Kurt F. Stone