Sunday, November 13, 2016

Peace, Israel, Orthodox Jews, and Trump

President-elect Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu (TOI)
I am embarrassed to say that most Orthodox Jewish voters voted for Donald Trump. At least that is the case in New York and Chicago.  I completely understand why those committed to their Judaism would vote for someone who is perceived to be more pro Israel than their opponent. But the obvious lack of suitability so often displayed by Mr. Trump during the campaign should have made a people known for their intelligence wary of electing such an individual as the leader of the free world.

I need not go into details about his lack of suitability. It was clearly manifest to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to the campaign. His unsuitability was as clear as the sun. I believed that Orthodox Jews would never vote for a man whose behavior and language are the antithesis of Orthodox Jewish values. Obviously I was wrong.

Why was I so wrong? I should have known based on my conversations with his supporters. When I spoke to Orthodox Jews that were very public in their support for Trump – what came across was their hatred for Mrs. Clinton. Lumped together with Obama they were seen as so bad, that Trump was a saint compared to her. This was the complete opposite of my view. Here is how one Orthodox Jew in New York put it:
“She’s corrupt, but I don’t care about that,” said Shaya Stern, 32, a teacher and rabbinical student who voted for Mr. Trump. “She had no message for the voters. She didn’t give any good reason to vote for her.”
I didn’t like Clinton either. But she was nowhere near the villain she was painted by them. When I tried to argue my case for voting for her as the lesser of two evils, they refused to hear it.

Honestly, I don’t understand the level of vitriol for either Clinton or Obama. But it’s there. They view Obama to be the most anti Israel Presidents in Israel’s  history. (Which is completely false.) They see Clinton as more of the same if not worse. (Also false.) So their decision to vote for Trump was cast in iron. It didn’t matter how unsuited Trump was. Or how terrible his behavior and rhetoric was. Nor did it hurt that widely read Orthodox Jewish publications like the Jewish Press endorsed him.

Clearly one of the things that fueled this support was what they perceived would be a new and far more positive attitude towards Israel. I wonder what they are saying now since Trump recently reiterated what he said during the campaign. That he would try to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

I am absolutely sure that none of those that voted for him thought that this would be his first public statement about Israel post election. This is not the change that my coreligionists thought they were voting for. Instead not too much will change except that someone clearly not ‘ready for prime time’ whose behavior and language is an embarrassment to the entire country - will be in charge.

What about that comment? Does reiterating his desire to negotiate a peace deal mean that his approach to Israel will differ little from Obama’s – or Clinton’s for that matter? Hard to know since Trump is the most unpredictable President-elect in American history.

Personally, I am not worried about it. Because I support Trump’s interest in making peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I just don’t think it’s possible as things stand now. I have zero confidence in it. The ingrained hatred of Israel and the Jewish people with which Palestinians and most other Arabs have been indoctrinated will simply prevent any such thing from happening. Even if the guy who wrote the book on deal making is in charge of it.

One may wonder though if Trump’s strongly stated support for Israel has disappeared or whether it was ever really there in anything but words designed to get the Jewish and Evangelical vote.

I’m sure getting votes has something to do with it. But as I said last week, there are too many Orthodox Jews in his life that are strong supporters of Israel. And these are Jews he listens to. Like his daughter and son in law. And his top lawyer – whom Trump said he likes to rely upon with respect to Israel. Not to mention the well known strong support for Israel by his Vice President and other public figures that will most likely end up with prominent positions in his administration.

Based on this my gut feeling… (Yes that’s all it s – a gut feeling. Do with it what you will.) …my gut feeling is that Trump will not sell out Israel forcing it to accept a deal that they cannot live with. I don’t believe he would ever ask Israel to put itself at risk. I believe that he meant what he said about supporting Israel as a Jewish State whose security is paramount.  I believe him when he said that the hatred of Jews by Palestinians (and Arabs in general) must end.

How is Trump going to change the very real dynamic of hatred which in my view is the biggest impediment to peace? I don’t know and frankly I don’t think he can.

But his ego is HUGE  (…to borrow a word Trump has become identified with). An ego made even bigger with his successful bid for the Presidency. He thinks he can do it. Well, let him try. Based on the strong support for Israel I believe he has - what have we got to lose? (…to borrow a phrase he used in another context).

The answer is nothing. And if by miracle Trump succeeds in ending the bloodshed – who would complain? Certainly not me! Isn’t ending the shedding of Jewish blood something we can all agree upon?