Matan Rudner
Immigrant, former Lone Soldier, Progressive Zionist

American Zionists must vote for Biden

As a dual citizen of Israel and the United States, I am fortunate to have the right and the responsibility to vote in both countries’ elections. And as a fierce Zionist and former Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, nothing matters more to me as I head to the ballot box than the safety and prosperity of the State of Israel. It is with the great concern for my homeland that I urge my fellow Americans to cast their vote for Joe Biden.

On the surface, it may seem difficult to argue against the record of the Trump administration on Israel. In particular, the recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, and the encouragement of normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan are all monumental and positive steps.

And though Congress mandated the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem in 1995, and though the rapprochement between Israel and these Sunni Arab states is in reality the process of a decades-long power shift in the Middle East and of regional fatigue with the Palestinian issue, praise is due to this administration nonetheless.

However, significant as these policies are, they need to be seen as part of the bigger picture of Israel’s long-term security. And in the long-term, this administration is having a detrimental effect on the world’s only Jewish state.

For Israel, which strives to protect Jews everywhere, anti-Semitism anywhere poses a serious threat. No American president has done as much to encourage anti-Semitism than Donald Trump. Throughout his term he has consistently characterized American Jews as money-obsessed, he has dangerously courted the support of white supremacists, and he has openly tolerated neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and beyond. Under his presidency we’ve witnessed a skyrocketing of anti-Semitic incidents, including the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the most violent attack on Jews in American history.

Israel, with a population that lives mostly on the Mediterranean coast and which has struggled for decades with food security, water supply, and desertification, is particularly threatened by the devastating effects of climate change. Nothing poses a greater danger to Israel and to our species as a whole than the imminent destruction of our earth’s ecosystem. On this issue too, Donald Trump has led the world in disastrous policy. For years he has denied the science of climate change, repealed crucial environmental protection laws, sold off public lands, and withdrew the world’s most carbon emissions-producing economy from the Paris Agreement.

Israel, as the sole democracy in a region populated by autocratic regimes, relies on the United States to lead the world through the power and principle of its democratic institutions. Throughout his time in office, Donald Trump has waged an all out war on democracy at home and abroad. He has maliciously lied and spread misinformation about our sacrosanct election process, he has attacked the press, he has enlisted the aid of foreign regimes to influence our elections, he has blatantly encouraged the Chinese policy of forcing over a million Uyghur Muslims into concentration camps, and he has expressed unbridled admiration for authoritarian leaders around the world like Orban, Erdogan, and Putin. Emboldened by the president, the current Israeli government (led by a man who has flirted with authoritarianism himself) has adopted a similar strategy. The governing Likud party has attempted to place cameras inside Arab polling stations, has attacked the press, and this very week repealed a vote in the Knesset when it didn’t like the result.

Israel, entrenched in a devastating, existential conflict with the Palestinians, looks to the American administration for diplomatic assistance in reaching a resolution. Faced with never-ending violence, and demographics that are forcing Israel to choose between being a Jewish state and being a democracy, a just solution to this conflict is as urgent as ever.

No president has made peace with the Palestinians more out-of-reach than Donald Trump. When he withdrew crucial funding from UNRWA, the United Nations agency that helps to educate, feed, and house millions of Palestinians, because their textbooks are notoriously anti-semitic, he simply withdrew the funding altogether rather than redirect it to an organization that can carry out this critical work instead. Instead of attempting to encourage the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, he has closed diplomatic channels, shuttering their consulate in Washington. Rather than support previous peace proposals with wide consensus among Israelis and at least partial consensus among Palestinians, he has put forth “a roadmap for peace” so unrealistic as to permanently damage the United States’ ability to act as a broker in negotiations.

Let me be clear- you cannot be genuinely pro-Israel if you are anti-Palestinian. Withdrawing financial support from Palestinian civil society, closing diplomatic channels, rejecting realistic peace proposals, and expressing consistent hatred and bigotry towards Muslims everywhere is incompatible with a genuine interest in Israel’s security.

These challenges, the safety of diaspora Jewry, the fight against climate change, the health of Israel’s democracy, and the long-term peace and security of our beloved homeland, are the most pressing challenges our people currently face. American Jews must support a candidate with a proven record of fighting for these issues.

I’ll be the first to say that Joe Biden is not perfect, if we’ve learned anything over these past four years it’s that no one is. In the past he’s supported policies that I take real issue with, particularly the Iran nuclear deal. However, I believe that on these fundamental challenges his record is strong. He is vocal in denouncing anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in all their forms; his proposals to fight climate change are the most progressive in the nation’s history; he has repudiated authoritarianism and supported democracy on the world stage; he has supported Israel’s best inclinations towards democracy, not its worst inclination towards militant chauvinism; he understands the necessity of achieving real peace with the Palestinians. He also knows that only a strong Israel can make concessions for peace and, therefore, as Vice President he played an important role in securing funding for Israel’s miraculous Iron Dome system and supported the 2016 agreement to provide Israel with 38 billion dollars in direct military aid.

It seems that, for a while now, the world has been falling apart around us. Trapped in our homes and relegated to computer screens, we’ve witnessed crisis after crisis wreak havoc across the United States and around the globe. This historic election gives the us the unique opportunity, for the first time in a long time, to chart the course of our destiny. As American Zionists, when we head to the ballot box, we aren’t just picking the next president. We are deciding in what kind of world we want Israel to exist. The choice has never been clearer.

About the Author
Matan made Aliyah from Dallas, Texas and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. He is a tour guide and lives in Jerusalem with his cat, Baruch.
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