Avi Berkowitz

Are we ready for Trump?

The candidate has given Greater Israel loyalists the credibility to make their case to a far wider public

Last week we got a peek at what might happen if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States.

From a letter written by Mr. David Friedman, Donald Trump’s top Israel adviser, we learned that a Trump Administration would not automatically support the Two State Solution for resolving our conflict with the Palestinians. Instead, a Trump Administration would consider other solutions for resolving the conflict, including a One State Solution in which Israel extends its sovereignty throughout Judea and Samaria and grants full citizenship rights to the indigenous Arab population. 

Go ahead. Rub your eyes and feel free to re-read the bolded words above.

Yes, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States would present us, the partisans of Greater Israel, with a chance to win the day, rapidly and peacefully. If we play our cards right, our fifty year struggle to reclaim the homeland – dunam by dunam, settlement by settlement – would conclude in very short order and with the extension of Jewish sovereignty throughout all of the Land of Israel, from the river to the sea. Moreover, all of this will happen with the firm and generous support of the democratically elected Trump Administration, whose policy makers will be celebrating alongside of us the return of the Jewish people, of the Children of Israel, to their Biblical boundary lines.

But even if the unthinkable does not happen, even if Donald Trump does not become President of the United States and after November we find ourselves back at the grinding, tedious, and altogether too often life-threatening work of reclaiming our Homeland by homestead – dunam by dunam, settlement by settlement – the Trump campaign’s willingness to look favorably upon the extension of the Jewish sovereignty up to the territorial boundary lines of Biblical Israel has permanently altered the context of our cause.

The Trump campaign’s near endorsement of the Greater Israel project has ruptured the American political consensus in favor of Little Israel. This consensus, which has been in place since Ronald Reagan recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization, was always expressed by the automatic bi-partisan support for the Two State Solution. This wall-to-wall consensus, which reached from the neo-cons on the right all the way to Bernie Sanders on the left, did more than just prevent us from placing before the American public the moral and political logic of our case for exclusive Jewish sovereignty over all of the Land of Israel, from Biblical boundary line to Biblical boundary line. It deprived us of our voice and threatened to return us to the political wilderness from which we emerged only when Menachem Begin became the Prime Minister of Israel.

To avoid this fate, to remain relevant in the face of the American government’s wall-to-wall boycott of our political ideology, we set aside the justice of our cause, its profound moral and political truths, and aligned ourselves with the security types found among Israel’s “territorial maximalists.” We fell in line behind men like Yitzhak Shamir who opposed our withdrawal from the Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt, and Ariel Sharon, at least until he destroyed the Jewish settlements in the Gaza District.

Over time, some of us even seemed to forget both the logic and the justice of our cause, and genuinely embraced the security arguments of the “territorial maximalists” which today has been radically downsized to fit the following dictum: maximum territorial annexation with the minimum number of Arabs. But most of us remained loyal to the cause which explains why the only time that we felt comfortable enough to lay out the rational political logic that underpins its justice was when we were speaking from a pulpit inside of America’s Evangelical Churches.

No more! The Trump campaign’s near endorsement of our cause is a direct challenge to us to find our own voice again, to walk out of those Churches, and to re-join the secular political debate.

To do so, we will be required first and foremost to find the formula that neutralizes the demographic argument against the One State Solution. This argument, which has lately taken on the frightening dimensions of a terrifying boogeyman, is both simplistic and insidious. It proceeds from a false reading of Zionism’s origins – Zionism is not a form of ethnic nationalism, rooted in the fantasies of 19th century European romanticism – and concludes with a dangerous and deceptive prescription for saving the Jewish identity of the Jewish State from the relentless ferocity of the demographic boogey man – Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people is not tied to the religious pedigree of its citizens, nor is it contingent upon the status of each Israeli mother’s womb and the condition of each Israeli father’s foreskin.

The formula which we seek, the material which we will use in order to forge the tool with which to slay the vaunted demographic boogeyman, lies at the core of the ideology of Greater Israel. As I have elsewhere demonstrated, extending Israeli sovereignty to the boundary lines of Biblical Israel removes the Jewish identity of the Jewish State from the wombs of its mothers and places it literally and directly on the territorial boundary lines which delimit its sovereign patrimony. But because those boundary lines are exclusively sanctioned by Judaism’s religious tradition, they implicate all of Israel’s citizens – Jews and non-Jews alike – in their authority, which is just another way of saying that unlike Little Israel, Greater Israel will be the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people even though its multi-ethnic citizenry will not share the same religious pedigree.

I am not certain that Donald Trump or even David Friedman had this formula in mind when they wittingly and knowingly ruptured the American political consensus against the ideology of Greater Israel. But I am absolutely confident that by so doing they provided us with our first genuine opportunity in more than thirty years to make the case for the One State Solution in every possible forum and from every available podium. If we ignore this opportunity and fail to seize the moment we will not merely be committing an irredeemable political crime, we will be courting a political disaster of Biblical proportions.

About the Author
Avi Berkowitz teaches history at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University, and serves as the Rabbi of the Minyan HaVatikim in the Rimon section of Efrat. He holds a PhD from Columbia University in International Relations, with a specialty in Middle East studies and received his Rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchick. Prior to coming on aliyah, he served as the rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Manhattan's East Village, taught history at the Ramaz Upper School, and was an adjunct Assistant Professor of political science and Middle East studies at CUNY
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