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.

Saying "no" to this president could have deadly consequences for Israelis. If attacked by Iran, Israel needs the President to act decisively in support. If Israel needs more Iron Dome batteries, it needs the Administration. If Israel needs parts or technological support, the Administration could refuse or stall. If Israel needs American ships stationed in places to ensure no one encroaches from the sea, the Administration could refuse.

These are not theoretical concerns. Recall the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was peeved at Israel. He counseled President Nixon, and Nixon agreed, to delay sending crucial supplies for several days. Israel's ability to counter the surprise attack was severely jeopardized, to the point that Defense Minister Dayan raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons.  Fortunately, Prime Minister Golda Meir ignored him and the supplies were released in time, but not before Israeli soldiers died. 

The point is that for Israel, saying "no" to any President can have life-and-death consequences. This President, narcissist that he is, might very well say "no" at a crucial moment if he feels that he was crossed.

As an Israeli citizen who lives in Israel a good part of the year and has been through wars there, and as a parent with a daughter living in Israel, these are not abstract concerns to me. It is real-life, and it is more important than how campaigns are impacted. It is more important than how members of a political party in the U.S. feel about it.  It is more important than how Jews in the U.S. feel about it. 

Some have said that, like Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu was acting not with the interests of Israel in mind but, rather, for narrow, self-interested political reasons. Perhaps. Politicians usually act out of a mix of motivations. But it is doubtful that Israel's security and President Trump's impact on it was not a significant consideration in the decision to refuse entry to the congresswomen.

As mentioned above, originally Israeli Ambassador Dermer announced that Israel was going to permit the visit.  Dermer is, if nothing else, Netanyahu’s man.  He would not have made that announcement without Netanyahu’s approval.  The decision to reverse the original decision was made by a group of ministers and other officials after the President pressured Israel. 

Anyone who knows Israel knows that if anyone had dissented, it would have been public by now.  Most importantly, even if Netanyahu benefits personally from this decision to cave into Trump’s wishes, it is a decision that is in Israel’s interests nonetheless. The country cannot afford to have Trump angry at it.

The irony and hypocrisy: Recall when Israel strenuously objected to the Iran deal. This was not just Netanyahu's position. Israeli leaders across the political spectrum said that the deal represented an existential threat to Israel.

Many American Jews thought it was wrong that Israel defied an American President, even on an issue Israel viewed as an existential threat.  And, yet, those same Americans want Israel to defy a president on the issue of a visit by some members of Congress.

Americans might argue that Obama was a decent person doing the deal for noble reasons, while President Trump is a terrible person doing something for selfish, destructive political reasons. 

But Israelis are in their shoes, not in the shoes of Americans.  What they saw in Obama was an unfriendly President who was doing a deal that put them in mortal danger.  What they see in Trump is a President who has done some good things for them, who takes things awfully personally, and who has asked the country to reject entry to a couple of Congresswomen who don't like the country anyway. Looked at from that perspective, it's virtually a no-brainer.

Many Americans, including many American Jews, seem only to be able to see things from an American point of view.   

Israelis are playing with the cards Americans dealt them.  Is it not fair for them to say: "You Americans, not us, elected this narcissistic, hateful, vindictive game-show host.  Now you are mad at us because we're stuck between a rock and a hard place: Defy the guy who, by the way, has been pretty good to us, and incur his considerable wrath, or displease half the American public by not letting in a couple of freshman American congresswomen who hate us anyway. You elected this guy but it is our security that's at stake."

I don't expect Americans to lessen their anger and concern at what has happened. I am angry and concerned.

I do suggest directing that anger at the right place: The Americans that voted for President Trump. The media that promoted him. The politicians that have acquiesced to him.  The educational system that has produced a public that would vote for him. The society that has created attitudes and conditions that have made it possible for him to succeed. 

And, while you're at it, direct some anger at Democratic candidates and other officials whose infighting and proposals seem designed to help re-elect President Trump.  Direct your anger there and not at a small country that is playing the hand it was dealt by you. 

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


  1. Good points but all of the arguments you make about how good Trump has been for Israel suggests Israel acted to help re-elect Trump.

  2. I wish your article referred somewhere to the deplorable speak and intentions of these two women. They come off as pathetic and abused. I don’t agree with Israel’s decision, if only because they ( the congresswomen)don’t deserve more publicity.

  3. excellent
    personally i would also direct anger at USA Jews who only criticize us when Israel does things they don't like - do they support us on things they agree with or think that Israel did right or made when we made a contribution to the world . always the negative stuff

  4. On the one hand you give Trump credit for what you apparently consider the positive things he’s done for Israel yet on the Talib/Omar issue he is vindictive, petty and racist. Isn’t there some possibility that there is even a modicum of reason to the Israeli/ Trump position.
    Personally I support almost all visitors being welcomed to Israel so they can see for themselves the greatness of the country and its people. However from what I’ve read neither Talib or Omar had any interest in really experiencing Israel or in taking advantage of meetings with any of its leaders. Their sole agenda was a focus on ‘Palestine’ and the oppressed West Bank. And what might come from that?

    So how do you or can you rationalize this situation without name calling on either side?

  5. Well written. Yet the anti trumps' seems inconsistent with the premise that Israel must serve its own interests which is primarily survival. There has not been a more unwavering and supportive President than the current.

    The problem with all the Jewish “organizations” here is they can’t show strength against the haters. Much like that same kind of fear to offend going back to our European haters of the 1930’s. Oh no we can’t offend these people or they will hate us even more. Stupidity.

    Frankly I would have rather seen Israel let them in this time to disprove their lies about oppression there. But we must now stand strong and cannot attack Israel. I just got an email from our own illustrious local sac fed which is definitely and predictably critical of Israel.

    I think on the whole you helped people understand the realities only Israel faces.

  6. Very well done and thanks for sharing.

    Talk about a lose-lose situation.

    There is an urban legend that at the first muti lateral peace talks in Madrid when Shamir was PM that he gathered the Israeli delegation together the morning of the conference and said: “Kinderlach, this is the beginning of the end..”

    The story was related by Yechiel Leiter, the guy from the Jewish community of Hebron who was in Madrid at the time and I heard it second hand….but it came back to me earlier today.

    Those words have been reverberating in my head all day…..and you know, of course, that if the wind blows the other way in the US we could easily be thrown under the bus by POTUS as well.

  7. I read your blog and it’s great. But I do still place some blame on Israel’s leadership. They know we have an election in 14 months and cow towing to trump is the short game. Building up strong bipartisan support in Congress, which secures defense budgets, is the smarter move. Plus they actually had some momentum in this regard following the recent big bipartisan congressional trip there. “The squad” really had been shown to be small fringe figures. This move totally changes the dynamic and obviously looks awful.

    Clearly the whole situation is bad at this point and trump is to blame.

    Your note re the hypocrisy of American Jews standing up to presidents was spot on. It’s all just ideological.

  8. You lost me when you called trump a racist

    I thought better of your random thoughts and enjoyed them, but the term racist is strewn everywhere and means nothing anymore until it can be proven by more than a shadow of a doubt or the highest standard known to man.

    I await the day when someone can provide me evidence that trump, or even myself who has been called a racist because I am in local politics is proven to be a racist.

    Please continue to email me as I await the better writing that you have done

  9. I do take exception to you implying (paragraph 2) and then calling (paragraph 5) Mr. Trump a racist. This is a very serious charge - one that is made all too frequently in America right now. If you call Mr. Trump a racist, you have an obligation to prove it up. The press and the left in the US are also calling Mr. Trump a racist, but to my knowledge they have not offered facts. A WSJ columnist has called them out in an opinion piece, which I’ve attached to this email (Apple puts attachments at the end of emails).

    Back to the subject at hand - the planned visit to Israel by Reps Omar and Tlaib. One commentator on TV said (I paraphrase). If it is OK for Omar and Tlaib to boycott Israel, isn’t it also OK for Israel to boycott them? I know you are perhaps more concerned about Israel changing its decision due to President Trump’s tweet (and phone calls), but I don’t think most Americans care about that - instead most Americans will look at the underlying issue - is it proper for Israel to deny entry to those supporting BDS? I’m thinking most would say “yes”. Doesn’t the USA deny entry to opponents of the US?

  10. I’m not as convinced as you are that the consequences of ignoring Trump’s taunt would have been too risky.

    There is a reason why Trump is so supportive of Israel, and it has everything to do with the support of evangelicals. It’s similar to his pro-life stance. I don’t think he really cares about abortion. What he DOES care about is how that stance helps him politically. I think the same holds true for his support for Israel. To think that he would turn on Israel - and risk the support of one of his most loyal groups of supporters - doesn’t make sense to me. Especially over two Muslim women.

  11. Very well-written. And one cannot overlook the election approaching soon and the prime minister's shaky political and legal standing. Self-preservation and power are not be discounted.

  12. All Americans no matter what their personal opinions, particularly Members of Congress and other elected officials should have an inalienable right to travel. What are we supposed to do, deny Americans and Members of Congress the ability to travel to Russia or China because they disagree with policies there?

    I find it interesting that no one seems to remember that both of these Members of Congress won their primary and general elections. In fact, Congressmember Tlaib ran unopposed in her general election and Congressmember Omar won her general election with 87 % of the vote.

    As an unconditional supporter of the State of Israel, I urge you to continue to speak out. I always enjoy your thoughts.

  13. Very well written.
    You encapsulated my thoughts exactly.
    Unfortunately Trump has done more to divide the Jewish community then the Palestinians ever did
    You are spot on that Israel can’t cross Trump as he can turn vs you on a dime

  14. This is a good summation of a terrible situation. Thank you.

  15. Well said! I hate Tramp but am glad he has done some positive things for Israel. Re the Congresswomen and any others that endorse the boycott, x#&%*x them!! The anti-semitism resurfacing world-wide is scary and despicable!

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  16. This whole situation is so infuriating. I've decided that everyone is an idiot.. I was thinking the exact same thing about Obama. When he was president dems would basically say that Israel should do whatever he wanted given how good America and, in their perception Obama, was for Israel. Now they sing a different tune.

  17. For the first time in many years I disagree with your recent column. To bar a law abiding duly elected member of Congress because of her vile politics is what banana republics do, not democracies. America’s support of Israel is not merely reliant on the President. Congressional support has been the foundation of good relations and I fear this decision has done much harm. Many Israeli Prime Ministers have broken ranks with US Presidents including the current one, but barring a Representative because of her anti Israel views? . I am even re-considering my Senate Club status with AIPAC.

    Trump eventually poisons all who seek his approval, he is like a toxic drug that invariable diminishes everyone who takes it .....this decision should be reversed ASAP. Israel has now taken sides in the most polarizing American political environment in generations. It was a huge mistake.

  18. Jonathan S. Tobin [Editor in Chief of JNS dot org, Jewish News Syndicate] said:

    “... [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortes, [Ilhan] Omar, [Rashida] Tlaib, and others making egregious comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany are still being treated as the “future of the Democratic party” — in the words of the Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez...”

    SOURCE: A blow to BDS in the House by Jonathan S. Tobin, 2019/7/24

    Melanie Phillips said:

    “Yet the Democratic Party, which still attracts unquestioning support from some three-quarters of Jewish voters, has failed to discipline these women [Ilhan Omar (Democrat-Minnesota), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat-New York), Rashida Tlaib (Democrat-Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (Democrat-Massachusetts)] — not just for their Jew-baiting, but also for their deep-dyed anti-Americanism and anti-White racism.”

    SOURCE: In Trump vs. 'the Squad,' American Jews have picked the wrong target by Melanie Phillips, 2019/7/18

    Rabbi Harry Maryles said:
    “These four freshmen congresswomen have been granted far more attention, influence,
    and power than any other first-term congressmen in US history!”

    SOURCE: A Word to My Readers by Harry Maryles, 2019 July 17

    The most senior Democrat in the USA government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has also condemned “[Ilhan] Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” as “deeply offensive.”

    SOURCE: Ilhan Omar’s Pro-BDS Resolution Isn’t About Free Speech — It’s About Hating Israel and Jews by Adelle Nazarian, 2019/7/19

  19. Lord Ian Livingston of England said:

    “Whilst the Israeli Defense Forces are not perfect, the obsession of focusing on them despite being the most moral and professional army in the Middle East is very strange.”

    SOURCE: Ten Baroness Tonge Pilloried at House of Lords Session She Initiated on Israel’s Treatment of Palestinian Children by Benjamin Kerstein, 2019 July 8


    Mr. Ross Perot
    (two-time USA Presidential candidate) said:

    “Israel is a beacon in its part of the world in terms of its democratic government.

    It is a role model to the others there...”

    SOURCE: Remembering Ross Perot’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community by Jackson Richman, 2019 July 10