It is said that sometime after World War II, then US President Harry Truman was asked by the beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan if they could erect a statue of him to honor the role that the US played in providing relief to Berlin during that period? It may be apocryphal, but Truman is reported to have replied: “You don’t build statues of people while they are alive as you never know when you might have to tear them down.”
I was reminded of that statement when I heard that Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to give a new village on the Golan Heights the name “Trump” to mark all of the good things that the US president has done for Israel. Then, this week Petach Tikvah is considering naming a square in honor of Trump. Frankly, simply the thought of these ideas makes me sick.
To be sure, President Trump has been most generous in his “gifts” to Israel for which the overwhelming majority of Israelis are grateful even though, at this point in time, no one has any idea what all of this will cost us but, cost us it will. Of that we can be sure.
What bothers me about considering honoring the US president in this way is that he is an inveterate liar with morals that everyone admits are below gutter level.
For example, since taking office and through January of this year, Trump has made 7,645 ‘false or misleading claims’. By the latest count it is now over 10,000!!!! In October 2018 alone, a banner month for lies, he said 1,200 things that were false or misleading, according to Fact Checker database Donald Trump has lied about everything from immigration figures to the number of burgers he served to the Clemson football team. In that case, Trump claimed that he had ordered “over 1,000” burgers for the Clemson football team, a claim which came just hours after the president said he had order 300 burgers.
The most repeated lie – 187 times and counting – is that the Russia investigation is a “witch-hunt”, followed by Trump’s assertion, made 125 times, that his government passed “the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country”. The president has also made 124 false claims about the US “losing” money to Mexico under the North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), and has claimed that the economy is the “greatest ever” 110 times. The president has overstated African American and Hispanic employment figures 94 times, according to the Washington Post database.
To be sure, none of this seems to have stuck to him but that does not obliterate the truth. And why would Israel, the national home of the Jewish people who are enjoined by our commitment at Sinai to be a light unto the nations, give honor to someone whose morals are antithetical to everything Judaism stands for?
For sure, we have honored other American politicians who may not have had lily white hands. There is LaGuardia Street in Tel Aviv named for the former mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia who, representing Tammany Hall was no sterling example of high moral standing. And we have a Kennedy Forest named for assassinated former president, John F. Kennedy, who also had some sexual desires which played out in less than savory ways.
Nevertheless, one would be hard pressed to find any former president of the United States who has lied more often and whose moral values are so close to the bottom of any ranking scale. For sure we can be grateful for the gifts bestowed upon us these last two plus years. But there is no reason at all to prostitute the nation’s core values by naming a village, a square or other public area in honor of this man. If the electorate in the United States chooses to look the other way when it comes to his moral baseness, that is their business. But we dare not sink to the same level of disregard for the values that we all claim are so important to all of us.
Should the Prime Minister, a city mayor, or any other public official follow through on their desire to honor this US president in such a manner, it will be mark of shame on the State of Israel forever. In words similar to what Truman is reported to have said, you never name a village for someone who is still alive, because you never know when you might have to rename it. Better to wait until after Trump leavers office at which time an informed accounting of the debits and credits vis-à-vis Israel can be properly evaluated.