All About Israel

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President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu

By Larry Gordon

The president is making a series of head-fake moves when it comes to Israel, and many in the American Jewish community who pretend to be pro-Israel are none too pleased. A recent poll cited by the Gallup organization says that only 31% of American Jews currently have a positive or favorable image of President Trump.

So there are several things that are both distorted and wrong about taking these numbers too seriously. Firstly, though the Jewish population in the U.S. is a bit more than 2.5%, somehow those numbers—which under any other circumstances would border on insignificant—loom large on the broad American political scene.

But how do we define the general Jewish community, how telling is this 31% number, and does it in any way, shape, or form represent this thing that the media like to call American Jewish thought?

Despite the relative smallness of the Jewish community in the U.S., our positions on Israel and social issues are extremely diverse, with the thought process and the factions perhaps too disparate and numerous to reliably inventory.

Granted that, by and large, there are issues with true American support for Israel and issues that are near and dear to at least our readers. Perhaps the most major issue or stumbling block to eliciting a genuine idea of how U.S. Jews feel about Israel is the fact that over 70% of the American Jewish population has never been to the Jewish state.

So while these words are aimed at many who repeatedly visit Israel and have children and other family members who live there, there will obviously be a great divide between those who feel that Israel is a part of who they are and those who see it as a faraway place with little impact on their daily lives.

And then there is the misleading propaganda which has become known as “fake news” in the new Trump era. No country, people, or entity has been victimized by the dissemination of unbalanced and distorted information more than Israel and the Jewish people.

So when Gallup calls people with Jewish-sounding names like Goldberg and Cohen, and asks them about Mr. Trump or their position on Israel, it’s quite a roll of the dice and, frankly, probably quite a shabby and inexact way of gauging real opinion—if there is such a thing.

How has Mr. Trump’s early policy on Israel, his allusion to being OK with one state or two, impacted on the fashion in which Mr. Trump is being treated? Democrats particularly seem wedded to creating a Palestinian state and dividing Jerusalem or turning it into the nonsensical capital of two different, and at least one problematic, countries.

Presidents prior to this newly minted one were frequently cut some slack and given much more room because there was a feeling that if we gave the president—Clinton, Bush, or Obama—just a little more time, he would be able to score a personal Middle East triumph that would be what Trump calls the “Grand Deal,” resulting in a breakthrough peace agreement. Obama was given a pass on Syria, Benghazi, the Veterans Affairs hospitals scandal, the IRS debacle, and Obamacare possibly because his ace in the hole was forcing Israel into a bad deal that would jeopardize her security.

But so far, on that score, Trump might be the anti-Obama. While the clock was running out on the Obama tenure, Secretary John Kerry raced to Paris for a conference that they hoped would pressure Israel to succumb. It did not succeed. The media are still examining Trump’s words as if they were carefully scripted—which, if you can be assured of anything, it is that they were not. And those words include President Trump saying at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu that either a two-state or one-state solution was OK with him. And then on the controversy surrounding settlements, he asked the prime minister to “hold off a little,” which was also subject to much scrutiny and analysis.

There was a little excitement on the left when the president asked Bibi to hold off, but that does not mean much and is subject to be interpreted in any number of ways. But then his top aide on the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, visited the region and perhaps for the first time ever—for a representative of the president—sat with and talked about settlement communities with Yossi Dagan and others of the Shomron Regional Council.

To a world critical of Israel and uncomfortable with the role of Jews in the world, or their own Jewishness, this is just one more reason to do whatever they can to try to delegitimize not the Jewish state this time around, but Donald Trump, the president of the United States.

But our president, though he has not taken on the Middle East quite yet, is a courageous man who will in all likelihood stand by his convictions and beliefs. The liberal Democrats and those who portray Israel as an oppressor and occupier in their own country would perhaps even at this stage of the game go easier on Mr. Trump if he would only indicate that his objective is to be tough on Israel. That means restricting or even forbidding building in settlement communities and demanding that Israel make additional if not continuous concessions to a Palestinian Authority inspired and motivated by terrorism.

But Trump is not about to do that despite the pressure and the conduct of many of the presidents that preceded him. The Democratic Party has not come to grips yet with its losses last November. The Democrats believe they are in the process of politically cornering Mr. Trump and will be relentless in the pressure being brought to bear.

If you caught any part of the testimony this week of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, you saw him questioned by Democratic senators grasping at straws, trying desperately to achieve any kind of logical traction in order to deliver a blow to Mr. Trump. Rest assured that if the matter were about U.S.–Israel policy, the attempted onslaught would be no less severe.

So the Gallup poll is trying to tell us that 69% of the American Jewish community is not supportive of President Trump. Those numbers are tenuous at best and, considering the diversity of the Jewish community here, probably not indicative of the community’s true support for the president. So while it might not be all about Israel right now, it very well could be.

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at editor@5tjt.com.

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