82% of Israelis in for shock

A Pew poll released in early October showed that 82% of Israelis support President Donald Trump.  It would appear that the vast majority of Israelis are understandably grateful for his policies vis a vis Israel—especially moving the embassy to Jerusalem and appointing Nikki Haley to the UN.  As some one who travels extensively in the United States twice a year, I want to report that liking Donald Trump is extremely unpopular in American Jewish circles.  Jewish Republicans I know are embarrassed by Trump’s policies, his crassness, his narrow focus on American power without fending for American values.  There’s a “blue wave” coming and its going to be a big one.  Those who say that Trump and the Republicans will do just fine are kidding themselves.  Rarely has there been such energy ignited as we see today among just about every American constituency.  The Democrats will win big.

Meanwhile we have a Prime Minister who did something no previous Prime Minister ever did — he threw his affection and support to one side of the American political aisle.  What will it mean for Israel when the Democrats win big?  The hard left of the Democratic Party is emboldened and this block is, sorry to say, increasingly hostile to Israel.  These folks and many mainstream Democrats resent the way that right wing Israel has cozied up to right wing America.  Hopefully centrist Democrats will be able to soften the views and policies of the left wing of the Democratic Party but it will not be easy.

We ought to remember that our history teaches us to be skeptical of the left and the right.  To totally embrace the right or the left wing is to commit a form of idolatry.  We ought to remember what some of our rabbis taught us about avodah zarah.  They teach that avodah zarah is when you worship or serve a part as if it is the whole.  Or to put it another way—to worship the finite as if it is the infinite.  Israel’s total identification with the right, both here and in America, is neither wise nor politically astute.

If we want historical evidence of the foolishness of a total embrace of right or left,  consider our recent  history during the Shoah.  The Jewish underground in Poland sought to buy weapons from the Polish undergrounds.  Neither the left wing Polish underground or the right wing Polish underground co-operated.  Both denied the Jews weapons that were desperately needed.  Neither could be trusted.

I believe that it is mostly the trauma we have endured that keeps us willing to uncritically support the right wing.  We crave security.  We don’t trust the Arabs, especially their leaders.  We aren’t interested in taking risks for peace.  But we share a land with another people who are also traumatized and who want the dignity of having a country of their own.  We may not care about them but the world does care about them.  A resurgent Democratic Party, taking over Congress and the White House, will, I predict, deprive Israel of automatic support.

Let’s return to the wisdom of Pirke Avot which counsels us to be wary of those in power.  Let’s reach out to the left and right with the knowledge that neither has all the answers.  Let’s show the American people that we are not small minded.  Let’s show them that we also care about health care and the way women are treated, and the way our leaders treat the vulnerable.  Let’s be skeptical of our own right wing, as well as our own left wing.  When a right wing Israeli government must deal with a centrist or leftish American president and congress, it will be a strain that could be avoided.

About the Author
Bill Berk was born in California and graduated college from the University of California, Berkeley. He attended rabbinical school (HUC) and served congregations in Palo Alto and Phoenix. Bill made aliyah in 2006, and worked at the Hartman Institute running their educational programs for rabbis. He has worked at Keshet and Makor in the field of educational travel.