PM Netanyahu and his rival of the three-election-stalemate, Benny Gantz, have been summoned to the White House this week, apparently to hear the details of a much-touted peace initiative. Donald Trump, who is notorious for having an attention span so short that he is unable to get through the one-page briefs his aides prepare for him, is going to present a plan to solve a problem that has stumped the most brilliant political minds of the 20th and 21st centuries—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even more impressive, this plan has been developed without the participation of either of the involved parties.
Trump has been dangling this mysterious plan, supposedly written in partnership with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in front of the press since the beginning of his presidency three years ago. What made him choose this specific moment to summon the Israeli leaders to Washington to present it? In Jewish terms, what makes this week different than all other weeks in the past three years?
Two significant events are expected to take place this week. One, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is slated to vote on immunity for Mr. Netanyahu, who has been indicted on several counts of corruption. Second, the defense arguments in the Senate trial of Mr. Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, will be taking place. It is also a month before the latest round of Israeli elections. The Trump administration’s explanation is…coincidence. They could have announced the peace plan any time in the past three years, and the fact that they happened to choose this week is mere chance. Of course— any other explanation would point to the fact that the United States is aggressively interfering with the democratic processes of a sovereign nation, one of its staunchest allies, with the added benefit of creating a diversion from Trump’s impeachment. And that would be unacceptable to anyone who believes that Israel should be an independent democracy.
Over the past 72 years, Republicans and Democrats have served in the White House, various parties have led the Israeli Knesset, and all along, the strong relationship between the United States and Israel has been carefully guarded. Both sides have always kept a respectful distance from the internal politics of the other. That is, until Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu, who have demonstrated countless times their deep belief that rules and limitations exist for other people, not for them. Bibi and his enablers have leaped at Trump’s support for their annexation agenda with little care for the long-term ramifications of the politicization of the US-Israel relationship.
Make no mistake. Donald Trump doesn’t give a rat’s %@& about Israel, or any other country for that matter. In all of his dealings, Trump is motivated by one thing, and one thing only—his own interests. He happily admits this fact, and it’s one of the key reasons he saw no problem with withholding American military aid to Ukraine in order to advance his personal political campaign. One of his key electoral interests is maintaining the support of his infamous base, which is made up primarily of Christian evangelicals, a fact which has led to his support for Israel.
The Christian evangelical movement has aligned itself with the Israeli right in the last twenty years in a movement called “Christian Zionism”. While many Jews, Israelis in particular, take this term to mean people of Christian faith who define Zionism as Jewish Zionists do, nothing could be farther from the truth. Christian Zionists are not genuflecting Echad Haams and Jabotinskys. In very simple terms, they believe that certain conditions must be fulfilled in order for Jesus to return to earth in the so-called second coming. These conditions include the return of the Jews to Zion (i.e. the land promised by God to the Jews in the Old Testament, with borders stretching from modern-day Iraq to modern-day Egypt) and an all-encompassing war between the said Jews and their enemies of other religions known as Armageddon, during which many, or even most, of the Jews will be killed. Once the war is over, Jesus will return, and the Jews that are still alive will have the option to accept him or to burn in hell for all eternity. That is the philosophy of these “allies” in a nutshell, the people who Trump is making such a colossal effort to satisfy (listen to the Ground Truth podcast for more detailed information on Christian Zionism).
Many Israelis accept the Christian Zionists with open arms. “We need all the friends we can get”, they say, “What does it matter if they think they’re doing this to bring about the second coming? When the Messiah shows up, we’ll see who was right. In the meanwhile, we can enjoy their support.” Their pragmaticism focuses on the long term and seems to overlook is the more immediate goal of the evangelical Zionists—initiating Armageddon.
I have no inside information on the likelihood that their efforts will be successful in resurrecting Jesus, but if they continue in this vein, the evangelical Zionists and their allies in Israel may very well be successful in bringing on Armageddon. By completely sidelining the Palestinians, leaving them no option other than complete submission, they are creating a situation in which the Palestinians have nothing to lose. There is nothing more dangerous than people with nothing to lose. And when all hell breaks loose here in the holy land, it won’t be Ivanka and Donald Jr.’s life on the line, it will be that of my children. My son, who will be drafted next year, will be the one tasked with beating the will to resist out of the Palestinian civilian population, not Baron Trump. He will be the one to choose between the ramifications of refusing to terrorize women and children and those of agreeing. Either choice will impact the trajectory of his life.
Those who embrace Trump’s interference because it serves their opportunistic goals, I invite you to imagine what would happen if the situation was reversed. Imagine a liberal president meddling in the Israeli elections, utilizing his power as the leader of the free world to bring the Israeli left into power. Imagine him promoting a plan to hand over huge swaths of territory to create a Palestinian state, with little regard for the consequences to the future security or religious sensibilities of Israelis. Imagine him doing so without taking any responsibility consequences of his actions. Would that be acceptable? I think not. Yet, if you choose to embrace Donald Trump’s actions, you are opening the door for future interference which may be less to your liking.
The only people who have the right to determine the future of Israel are its citizens. It is not acceptable for a foreign power to blatantly interfere with our elections, with our democratic processes, and take no responsibility for the outcome of their actions.
Trump, Israel is not a pawn in your game. Get out of our politics. You’ve wreaked enough havoc with your own.