Josef Olmert

After the Trump Declaration- Some Sobering Thoughts, Pt. 1

The most common adjective attached to President Trump declaration about Jerusalem, was ”Historic”, and while I , as an historian [at least I pretend to be…] hesitate to use this word as freely as many do, especially in the media, I do believe that this time it was right to use it. That said, as the dust settles, it is time to delve back into the world of today’s realities, and leave history aside. So, here are some thoughts relating to the political aspects of the declaration, both in the US and Israel. More on Arab , Muslim and international reactions will follow.

The Reform Movement and Jerusalem
It took the Reforms too many years, to move from the original anti Zionist positions and ideology of the founders of the movement in Germany, to become full and important constituent group of the World Zionist Movement. It was therefore a shock, to say the very least, to read their leader, Rabbi Rick Jacobs reaction to the declaration. This knee-jerk reaction was totally negative, and instantly aroused two simple, obvious and inevitable questions. First, are the Reforms still consider themselves Zionists? , and second, why would any Zionist Israeli government[that is to say, not a government in the mold of the New Israel Fund]will ever take note of the Reform Movement complaints about the situation in the Kotel?. I, for one, thought, that in that case, Jacobs should appeal to Abbas and King Abdallah the Hashemite , about the Kotel. Then came another statement from Jacobs, in which the distinguished Rabbi brought himself to endorse the Trump statement. Good for the Reforms, even though it sounded, that the second statement came as if Rabbi Jacobs had to drink first a glass of poison, but he still said something more positive. Here is an indication of a much bigger problem connected with Progressive/Liberal/Left Wing American Jews. They, and I refer to those who still claim to be pro-Israel, and do not support BDS, need to decide, whether their stands about Israel, are ONLY decided by their understanding of the American Progressive agenda, or they have a distinct Jewish agenda, even if Linda Sarsour, Black Lives Matter[BLM] and other such ”tzadikim” do not like it. If they choose the former, then the initial Reform reaction makes sense, but then, do not pretend, that you say whatever it is that you do, because of your concern to Israel. The overall American Progressive agenda these days, simply have nothing to do with the good of Israel. If, on the other hand, you are still members of the pro-Israel and Zionist tent, then Trump can still be right when he makes a statement like the one he did. Put succinctly, current-day American Progressivism is anti Israel. Those who claim to be pro-Israel simply cannot be part of it.

The Evangelicals and the statement
We are told, that the Trump WH was besieged by Evangelical leaders, the mainstay of the Conservative Republican support to Trump, who demanded such , if not more pro-Israel statement from the President. This is not the place to engage in an extensive discussion of the complicated, sensitive and challenging relationships between Evangelicals and Jews in general, and even between them and Israel.I personally have my reservations, based on long-standing acquaintance with many significant leaders of the Evangelicals, but I do support being in a political coalition with them on issues relating to Israel, even if in disagreement with them on many social issues, and being aware of the theology, many elements of which I am strongly opposed to. This is one of the problems which I have with the Reforms, for example. The Evangelicals are Treif for them, but Sarsour and BLM are kosher?. The pressures of the Evangelicals on Trump notwithstanding, it is also highly significant for the pro-Israel community to realize, that the Evangelicals are not in our pocket. Far from it, and let us pay serious attention to those among them who already expressed their opposition to the declaration, also to some prominent Evangelical leaders who said nothing about it, refraining from expressing support. Much more importantly, let us pay attention to the millenial Evangelicals, who show much less support to Israel, than the older generation. This is substantiated in polls, and in line with the overall trend among millenials in the US and elsewhere to be far less pro-Israel, if not outright hostile. I followed carefully the Alabama Senate race,, where thankfully the Evangelical Roy Moore lost, and two elements came to my attention. First, even in the South East of the US, the bastion of support for Israel in this country, a Republican can lose elections in the Trump era. It has nothing to do with Israel, but now there is one less pro-Israel voice in the Senate, though I have no clue what is the position of the new Democratic senator on Jerusalem, but in the current climate of political polarization in the US, a Dem Senator is most likely not to be a supporter of Israel when it comes to crucial votes. Then there was something else. The wife of Roy Moore referred to the allegations of antisemitism leveled at him, by telling a cheering audience, that one of their attorneys was a JEW. Listening to the way she expressed the distinct word Jew sent shivers all over me. She is Evangelical, but Jews are not her cup of tea.This is also something that can be attached to many other Evangelicals.

Labor and Yesh Atid reaction
Avi Gabay and Yair Lapid did right by immediately and unequivocally endorsing the statement, and Lapid even praised Netanyahu personally. They did right on the merits of the case, reaffirming the near wall-to-wall consensus in Israel about Jerusalem, with Gabay even invoking the old Moshe Dayan statement about Sharm El Sheikh, stating that he prefers United Jerusalem without peace, over disunited Jerusalem with peace. Remembering what finally happened with Sharm , one wonders if Gabay did not misstate this time.However, both he and Lapid made the right political move , because they instantly prevented the issue of Jerusalem from being a controversial one , thus depriving Netanyahu from capitalizing on it, something which could dramatically lessen the public pressure on him regarding the current wave of inquiries that he is engaged in. There is though another political consequence to be emphasized here. Both Gabay and Lapid will not be able to rely on any form of political support from the anti Israel Joint List, whose leaders crossed the lines of legitimate political opposition to the declaration, and pushed themselves to the position of political pariahs. That means, that in order for either Gabay or Lapid to be next PM , they will have to co-opt either Kahlon or Lieberman to their ranks. Not totally impossible, but still hard to believe.

Jerusalem is always Al Rosh Simchatenu[on top of our happiness], but sadly not with others. More on it in next piece.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina