Now is a difficult time for us left-wing Zionists. Donald Trump is the least progressive leader in the Western world, and yet, as the UN resolution rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital has shown, he is the only Western leader and almost the only world leader who is willing to defy the antisemitic mobs. This creates a contradiction that we have to deal with.
We find ourselves having to reluctantly admit that while US President Donald Trump’s approach to the Israel-Arab conflict seems less sophisticated than that of his predecessors, his return to basics may be exactly what is needed in a conflict where sophistication consists of finding intricate reasons to excuse every Arab behavior, no matter how outrageous, immoral, or criminal.
Before Trump, US presidents did not dare visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem because it falls outside of the green line (the pre-1967 border), out of fear of offending Palestinians and Muslims.
Trump broke that taboo, accompanied by his wife and his daughter Ivanka who is a Jewish convert. By doing so, he recognized the Jews’ holiest place of prayer, in defiance of international attempts to deny an obvious truth, the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is considered by Western politicians too dangerous and likely to lead to negative consequences, but Trump went ahead anyway. He simply told the truth, something rarely done by Western leaders with regard to this conflict, especially when it could offend Arab or Muslim sensibilities.
Seeing and recognizing the truth is, however, essential to resolving any conflict. Some experts even believe that “Trump’s Jerusalem steps will help the peace process”.
Refusing to give Palestinians a free pass
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmood Abbas frequently engages in incendiary rhetoric that constitutes incitement, and he funds families of convicted terrorists, which encourages terrorism, yet Western leaders rarely if ever challenge him on these actions.
Trump ignored precedents and demanded from Abbas that he stop these practices. Abbas responded, “We are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace”. Trump appears to have believed Abbas’ word because a couple of weeks later, Trump yelled at Abbas, “You tricked me in DC! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to sit down with Abbas and negotiate a peace agreement. Abbas has consistently refused, using the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as an excuse, as if not negotiating will make the settlements disappear.
Western leaders have not challenged Abbas on this bizarre position, but recently Trump threatened to cut off US aid money to the Palestinian Authority, saying, “They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel”. Abbas’ refusal to negotiate either hides the knowledge that he cannot sell a deal to his people or hides his lack of support for the West’s much vaunted two-state solution. Either way, pushing him to negotiate should help uncover what he is hiding.
The West provides aid to the Palestinians without expecting anything in return. Trump, on the other hand, does not accept that the US receives “no appreciation or respect” in return for the aid that it provides, and he does not “tolerate falsehoods being spread about America”. Trump was perhaps referring to Fatah tweets equating Trump with Hitler and the US with ISIS.
The fact that the PA and its Fatah party engage in such behaviors while expecting impunity is an indication of how much of a free pass the Palestinian leadership has so far received from the West. Holding the Palestinian leadership responsible for its own actions was long overdue.
Questioning the PA’s commitment to peace
Palestinian leaders have refused peace offers in 2000 and 2008 and continue to refuse to engage in any negotiations, but this is never challenged by Western leaders, as if the Palestinian leadership has no responsibility to be reasonable or even to negotiate.
Trump has correctly identified that giving the Palestinians too much while expecting nothing in return is not productive. He recognized that:
Prospects of negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian deal […] have been hampered by the fact that the international community has been “giving so much” to the Palestinians.
Based on how long the Israel-Arab conflict has lasted, it only makes sense to ask if new approaches would be helpful, but Western politicians are typically afraid of asking that logical question. Not Trump. He said:
We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past.
Conventional thinking, often repeated by Western leaders, is that the way ahead is a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders and negotiated between Israel and the PA. Palestinian refusals of such offers and their refusal to even negotiate have not affected the West’s devotion to the two-state mantra.
Trump questions whether a two-state solution still makes sense, and he suggests that a regional approach may work better. Considering that Arab states started the conflict and that many Palestinians are still held in refugee status in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, a regional approach makes sense.
Standing up to the Mullahs
Former US President Barack Obama shied away from supporting Iranian protesters, but not Trump. He tweeted:
The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!
This is quite a departure from Obama who, according to Politico Magazine, sabotaged a US task force targeting Hezbollah’s billion-dollar criminal enterprise in order to protect the Iran deal. This is the deal to which renowned lawyer and Democrat Alan Dershowitz gave a failing grade, estimating that that it gives Iran the “green light to build [the] nuke”.
Trump reflected Dershowitz’s opinion when he said that, “The Iran deal is one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into”.
Trump tore into the Iranian regime in a UN speech that recognized the reality of the Iranian regime, a reality that most Western leaders are afraid to see. He said:
Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.
Less than four months later, Iranian protesters reflected Trump’s words with the shouts of:
No to Syria, No to Gaza, No to Yemen.
They know now who is on their side. Those who wish to end Iran’s wars and prevent more of them better hope that those protesters are one day in charge of their country.
Boldly standing with Israel
Perhaps most importantly, Trump’s outspoken support and admiration for Israel stands in sharp contrast to a world where demonizing Israel is seen as socially acceptable and even de rigueur.
Trump defied a world of pettiness and outright antisemitism when he declared in Israel:
Israel is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. From all parts of this great country, one message resounds: and that is the message of hope. Down through the ages, the Jewish people have suffered persecution, oppression and even those who have sought their destruction. But, through it all, they have endured – and they have thrived. I stand in awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish People, and I make this promise to you: My Administration will always stand with Israel.
This is important because the anti-Zionist strategy that consists of trying to delegitimate the very existence of the Jewish state must be denounced and destroyed.
Refusing to appease
In contrast to Trump, the pretentious sophistication of other world leaders smells a lot like appeasement.
A sophisticated approach is appropriate when responding to an adversary who is sophisticated, but the Palestinian approach to the conflict is not sophisticated. It consists of rejecting any path to peace, using incitement and violence, and holding out for the expectation that the Jewish state will sooner or later, in one way or another, be destroyed.
The simplistic Palestinian approach must be confronted with fundamental truths. As a result, the Palestinian leadership will either bend, leading to a solution negotiated with them, or, more likely, it will break, leading to a solution created above the heads of the Palestinians and without the necessity of their approval.
Western politicians have allowed Palestinian leaders to manipulate them and abuse their goodwill because they have not recognized that the Israel-Arab conflict is at its foundation totally unsophisticated: Jews have the right to self-determination on land that has been at the center of their spiritual and intellectual life for 3000 years, and the Arabs must unequivocally accept that fundamental truth.
Trump’s approach is already showing some hopeful signs. The New York Times revealed that Egypt and Saudi Arabia privately accepted Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem even though they condemned it publicly. It seems that even Arab leaders are eager to move away from a never-ending stalemate.
It is too early to say whether Trump’s approach will lead to the end of the Israel-Arab conflict, but the fact that it is exposing truths that were previously shamefully hidden is already a positive development.
Ben-Gurion said it
David Ben-Gurion, the beloved founding leader of Israel and a left-wing figure of his time, confronted a similar issue 78 years ago. Faced with the need to help the British fight the Nazis while at the same time fighting the British 1939 White Paper that the Jewish Agency for Palestine said was attempting to take away the Jews’ “last hope” at the “darkest hour of Jewish history”, Ben-Gurion said:
We must help the [British] army as if there were no White Paper, and we must fight the White Paper as if there were no war.
Likewise, many Americans who are left-wing Zionists are choosing to strongly support Trump in his policies on Israel while they vigorously oppose most of his domestic policies.