Friday, August 16, 2019

Anger management

Many Americans, including many American Jews, are upset and angry that Israel conceded to President Trump’s pressure and has decided not to allow a visit to Israel by Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar.  (Actually, according to the Congresswomen, the visit was to be to “Palestine," which tells you a little about the agenda.)

Americans are angry that Israel is aiding Trump in his campaign, at least partially fueled by racism, to ostracize the congresswomen.  American Jews who care about Israel as well as their place in the Democratic Party are angry that Israel conceded to an obvious effort to create division in the Democratic Party and to weaken crucial bipartisan support for Israel.  American Jewish leaders are also concerned that Israel’s doing Trump’s bidding will further exacerbate the divides in the American Jewish community. 

All are right to be angry and upset.  I am angry and upset that Trump pressured Israel.  I am upset that Israel caved in.  I fear the long-term consequences to the American Jewish community and to the bi-partisan support for Israel, which is vital. 

But these Americans and, in particular, American Jews, who are angry at Israel are directing their anger at the wrong place.  And these Americans are displaying an unfathomable degree of hypocrisy and inconsistency. And American Jews are demonstrating a complete inability to even acknowledge that perhaps Israelis have a legitimate reason for seeing things differently.  Moreover, they cannot see the irony in the current situation even though it should be hitting them in the face.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer first announced that Israel would permit the visit.  Then President Trump, undoubtedly for narcissistic, racist political reasons, leaned on Israel not to do it. Unfortunately, despite the deplorable motivations, Trump is nonetheless the president of the United States and he has control over things that are crucial to Israel's security, some of them existential. And he is vindictive.

Trump has moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something other presidents committed to do but did not do.  He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he has taken on anti-Israel activities and organizations at the UN and other world bodies to an extent no other president ever did.  It may pain pro-Israel Democrats like me to to have to recognize that President Trump did these things, but they are facts nonetheless. 

And it is of no matter what Trump's motivations were for taking these positive steps.  If we undid every good thing politicians do for personal, self-interested political reasons, we’d have to erase much of the progress of the last 100 years.

To defy any president of the United States is a substantial risk for Israel.  To say “no” to this one, who has taken positive actions for it and who surely thinks he has been a great friend, is to take a huge risk. As I said, the man is vindictive, and he is petty.