History will judge the Trump Presidency for the damage it caused the US, the world at large, and Israel as well. However, Donald Trump has made one highly positive contribution – his policies have prompted realization that being pro-Israel need not necessarily mean supporting its government’s positions.
Trump’s enthusiastic support for the current Israeli government policy, and the generous gifts he bestowed on it, have been unique. However, his policy has been severely detrimental to Israel and its standing – even before annexation, which if implemented, would cause strategic damage to regional stability and Israel’s international legitimacy.
Under Trump, Israel’s most important strategic friend – the US has become far less influential in the international arena and in our region, greatly diminishing its ability to exert influence on our behalf in international institutions and on states that are important to us.
Trump has made the US irrelevant to any arrangement with the Palestinians (arrangements critical to Israel’s ability to provide a democratic national home for the Jewish people) by completely ignoring the existence of the other side to the conflict and thus losing American influence on the Palestinians.
Trump made the US irrelevant in terms of blocking Iran’s nuclear program after unilaterally pulling out of the Iran deal (JCPOA) and dismantling the effective international coalition established by the Obama Administration against a nuclear Iran and empowering the fanatic extreme forces within Iran.
Trump made the US into a passive bystander in Syria and vis-à-vis the presence of Shiite militias on our northern border. Nowadays, Russia, Turkey and Iran are the ones determining these issues, which are so crucial for Israel.
Trump forced Israel to take a stand in his futile and senseless trade war with China against Israel’s economic interests.
Trump’s favoritism toward the Israeli government, in contrast to his cold shoulder to US strategic allies in NATO and Asia, has placed Israel among a group of authoritarian and populist leaders and distanced it from the liberal camp that constitutes a majority in the US and Europe. This closeness has fatally undermined US bipartisan support for Israel and our ties between with US Jewry.
For years, the American Jewish establishment sanctified its support for Israeli government positions without judging its policies and without examining whether they conform to the values of the American Jewish community, whether they are good for the Jewish people, for the US and even for Israel.
The question of “what is good for Israel” is obviously a legitimate argument, but the Trump presidency has made many Jews, who tended to support our government’s policies no matter what, realize that they could be critical of the Israeli government and at the same time committed to the state.
Trump’s Presidency made it clear to them that they can operate within the law against Israeli government policy, just as they can resist the policies of their elected President in their country within the framework of the law.
The symbiotic ties between Netanyahu and Trump made many American Jews realize that they do not have to choose between their liberal values and their love of the nation state of the Jewish people.
Trump’s shocking values – his xenophobic racism, misogyny, and contempt for anyone who does not think as he does, whether in the US or the international arena, made clear the extent to which such a distinction is necessary.
For years, the American Jewish establishment supported Israeli government policy even though most American Jews are liberals and large numbers even progressives, and although the values and policies of Israel’s government often run counter to their own. They continued to support governments that viewed them as second-class Jews if they were not Orthodox and regarded their support for the two-state solution as a sign of defeatism or even Jewish self-hate.
For years, this position of the Jewish establishment prevented American administrations from adopting a proactive approach to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, because Jewish organizations exerted pressure to ensure that every US step was coordinated with the Likud government that opposed any agreement the Palestinians might have accepted.
The positions we are starting to hear from the Democratic Party stir up hope that the US will revert to be a true friend of Israel, restoring its standing in the world and the region by virtue of its diplomatic skills and its policies. This friend would be a significant player vis-à-vis our enemies and a significant player who can help us end the status quo with the Palestinians that threatens the future of the Zionist vision. For me, that is the true pro-Israel position.