Friday, December 16, 2016

Will Trump be Good or Bad for Israel?

David Friedman, Donald Trump, and his daughter, Ivanka (Ha'artez)
During the campaign I thought that candidate Trump was an embarrassment to the nation that should in no way become the leader of the free world. That hasn’t changed. He still has a penchant for getting even with his detractors by calling them the worst names he can think of. Not very Presidential to say the least. I still feel he is an embarrassment to the country practically every time he opens his mouth.

More importantly, however, is the fact that he is still a loose cannon who will have his finger on the nuclear button. I am still apprehensive about it. That’s why I supported his opponent. 

At the same time I conceded that his stated views (which I wasn’t convinced would end up as policy) were more in line with my own. In particular his views of Israel and the Jewish people. That was easy since his own daughter, his son-in-law, and two of his top lawyers are Orthodox Jews that are very pro Israel. These were the people he most trusted to advise him on what American policy toward Israel should be.

As I predicted, much of his pre-election rhetoric turned out to be just that: rhetoric that he knew would appeal to his base but would not be implemented . It got him elected. Now reality has settled in.

The one thing Trump seems to have meant, though, is his strong support for the State of Israel. That did not surprise me considering the above mentioned advisers.

Yesterday he announced that he will nominate David Friedman, one of those two Orthodox Jewish lawyers to be America’s ambassador to Israel. And that he will be operating out of Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. Whether either of those things will happen remains to be seen.

Friedman still has to go through his senate confirmation hearings. But unless there are some serious skeletons in his closet, I don’t see a problem with that. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a bit trickier. The repercussion of such a move may have negative consequences for Israel and the US… or may not.

Nevertheless Trump has said he has every intention of fulfilling that promise and implementing congress’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. We’ll see. Not that this issue matters that much to me. But it’s nice to see the President-elect still saying it with such conviction. The symbolism of recognizing the obvious fact that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel is by itself – quite wonderful.

According to an article in Ha’aretz Friedman is more right wing than Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. So much so that J-Street has vowed to fight the nomination with ‘everything they got!’ That fact alone speaks very highly of Mr. Friedman. I can think of no better endorsement than J-Street’s opposition . Not only does Friedman support settlement activity - he does not believe in a 2 state solution – preferring a bi-national one state solution instead. He feels the Palestinian population ‘time bomb’ that would eventually make them a majority over Jewish Israelis - is exaggerated. 

I am very pleased at this development. This might make me seem like a real right wing hawk that endorses settlers even in places like Chevron or deep in the West Bank. They have the goal to populate all of biblical Israel with Jews and are actively doing so. Despite opposition by virtually every single nation including the US. 

But if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’d know I am not some right wing hawk that supports those moves. I supported Oslo – and still would if its goals if a true peace that would end the violence and lead to peaceful and friendly relations with a New Palestinian. I was even supportive of giving up sovereignty over East Jerusalem as their capital – provided we had free and unfettered access to our holy places (like the Kotel).

So no… I am not a right winger. I still feel this way. I just don’t believe that goal is realistic or even possible. There has been too much indoctrination of hatred of Israel and the Jewish people in the Arab culture. Which now manifests itself in murderous terrorist violence all over the world by Islamic fundamentalists. Not the least of which is are Hamas and Hezbollah. Both of which are committed to Israel’s destruction at all cost. They will never accept ‘Oslo’ other than as an interim step towards Israel’s annihilation. At the moment, I support a military occupation of all of the West Bank -  free of any settlers or settlement activity other than in border enclaves like Beitar and Maale Adumim.

So if I supported Oslo, why am I so happy with someone who is so right wing and very likely opposed everything Oslo stood for? What about all the problems a policy like Friedman’s would generate? What about Palestinian resistance to it in the form of yet another Intifada which would lead to even greater violence against innocent Israelis… and Jews all over the world? And possibly increased violence to Americans right here?

I have no clue what will happen if America’s policy towards Israel changes along Friedman’s lines. It has never been tried. Every administration since the founding of the state has had a fear of upsetting the Arabs by supporting Israel too much. Even the Reagan Administration listened to their state department’s warnings of dire consequences for – not only Israel – but for America. None of that has lead to peace. All we got is a world full of terrorism with the appeasement policies of the past

On the other hand, relations between many Arab nations and Israel have improved considerably under Netanyahu. We can thank Islamic fundamentalists for that. Those fanatics are a bigger danger to the Arabs states than they are to Israel. So even though they still nominally oppose settlement activity and support a 2 state solution - they are not all that ready to turn on the most powerful nation in the region whose capability to fight Islamists is greater than all of those nations combined. In other words the enemy of my enemy…

As a religious Jew I would like nothing better than to re-settle all of Israel and to have an undivided Jerusalem as our eternal capital. That I opposed all the right wing settlement activity is because I felt (and still feel as things stand now) that it wouldn’t work and just make things worse. Israel would lose whatever minimal support it gets from the nations of the world and it would harm its relationship with the US. Not to mention the violence that might ensue if history can be our teacher in this regard.

But as I said, the US has never had such a pro Israel administration as the one Trump is promising. It’s possible that a toughness that has never been tried might just work. Fundamentalism is on the rise. Netanyahu has improved relationship with  Arab nations. Perhaps a vision that someone like Menachem Begin had would be a path towards peace. A one state solution that would set up autonomous Palestinian zones where they could govern themselves under an Israeli flag. With an Israeli government helping them to accomplish it.

Now it’s true that Palestinians have much pride and investment in the idea of a national homeland. And their hatred of Israel and Jews will not go away anytime soon.  But they do not have any realistic hopes of creating a Palestinian state while Trump is President.

Maybe negotiation through strength with an America that backs you will work better than negotiation through the capitulations of the past.  On the other hand, things may go south very quickly. We will have to see if any of this happens and where it will lead. But in lieu of the current unstable situation where everything on the left has been tried to solve the problem, maybe it’s time to try something on the right that has never been tried. 

Who knows. But I guess we are about to find out if Trump is the best or worst thing to ever happen to the State of Israel since its founding.