In the recent election, American-Israelis voted 70%-30% for President Trump, the converse of how American Jews voted. That tells you Israelis value the president’s accomplishments abroad, feats which are not high priority for most Jews in the US. Under Trump, the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem, quit the Iran nuclear deal, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, declared that Israeli “settlements” beyond the 1949 Armistice lines are not illegal, endorsed, in principle, an Israeli annexation of up to 30% of the West Bank, and brokered normalization agreements with three Arab states under the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement. All of these accomplishments deal with reality in the Middle East, not some tired, fanciful panacea about the necessity for a State of Palestine to allow peace in the Middle East.
In addition, the outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo said, while in Israel on November 20, that the State Department would henceforth consider BDS, the anti-Israel boycott movement, to be anti-Semitic (Jew-hating in my parlance). Furthermore, the State Department would immediately start cracking down on its activities, including withdrawing government funding for groups affiliated with BDS. This is very important because BDS is antisemitic according to Natan Sharansky’s 3D test. (See Appendix.)
A few hours later, Pompeo made history by becoming the first US top diplomat to visit a West Bank settlement, albeit as a private citizen. The secretary and his wife had lunch at the excellent Psagot Winery, at which time Pompeo announced another seemingly dramatic US policy reversal, saying that all settlement goods imported to the US shall be marked as “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel,” instead of labels such as “Made in West Bank.”
Many in the US fear that the incumbent president is dismantling American democracy. They seem to have forgotten that the Constitution planned for events such as this. In fact, after vigorously challenging the year 2000 election results, candidate Al Gore conceded to incoming president George H. Bush only on December 13, more than five weeks after the election. Following that, President Clinton declined to begin transition meetings with President-elect Bush until December 19, 2000. Notwithstanding that, it’s likely that Joe Biden will assume the presidency in January and democracy in America remains intact. The question: Is the probable denial of a second term to President Trump good for Israel?
Clearly, Israel is about to lose its most stalwart American defender since Harry Truman. I believe that Donald Trump was destined to be a one-term president. His persona is so off-putting to many Americans, that he set their teeth on edge (Ezekiel 18:2). The media’s fascination with him showed itself even before he was elected; first sardonic disbelief; then alarm as he rolled over his fellow contenders; and finally loathing, both of the incoming president and his photogenic family, repeatedly for more than four years.
Trump was dogged by Hillary Clinton-instigated “Russian dossier” conspiracies, DC Establishment alarm that he might topple long-serving Democrats’ and Republicans’ cozy system, and dismay from the upper middle class that a “Philistine” could possibly, and then actually became, America’s most powerful man.
Ever the iconoclast, Trump set about toppling political and societal idols with abandon. Trump’s energy was so overwhelming that he withstood the Mueller Russian collusion investigation and a ridiculous “impeachment over a phone conversation” with ease, and even managed to appoint three Supreme Court Justices, including one well-qualified nominee who was deemed a serial rapist without one piece of evidence, and another who attained the position only weeks before a presidential election. In addition, Trump upset the Establishment apple cart concerning Israel, the first president to recognize that the Palestinian Arabs desire not peace, but the destruction of Israel.
Coupled with this dose of “the Emperor has no clothes,” was Trump’s equally astute conviction that Iran and China each desire to replace the US – Iran in the Middle East and China globally. He forcefully disdained the EU for its effete policies, the UN for its irrelevance and anti-democratic actions, and NATO allies’ unwarranted dependence on the US for protection. (On the negative side, Trump for some reason admires the Islamist villain, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.)
I believe that it’s crucial for Republicans to retain their majority in the Senate. It’s a generally accepted principle that a divided democratic government minimizes the chance that injurious, major legislation could become law. This potential “one-party rule” goes against the pluralistic government model that republics require. Otherwise, there is a chance of a democratic republic becoming a dictatorship. This happened in Europe in the 20th century.
With such a close election result in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, whoever is president should not be able to strong-arm new legislation that is not bi-partisan. The bitter fight over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an unhappy example of this, when this massively expensive sea change in medical care passed without a single vote from the opposition. And let’s not forget that the US economy usually performs best with divided government.
If and when the aging, sedate Joe Biden becomes president, some of Trump’s pro-Israel policies will be replaced by the incoming president’s executive orders, many similar to policies of the Obama Administration. Israel and the region will not benefit if the Abraham agreement is viewed as less beneficial than a return to the failed idea of “two states living side by side in peace.”
It’s pointless to attempt to predict how a Trump second term would have turned out. All we know is that during Trump’s presidency there have been many accomplishments which greatly benefitted Israel and its non-jihadist neighbors. We in Israel hope that the incoming administration values and preserves these attainments for the good of Israel and the United States.
In order to define a clear line between criticism of Israel and the new antisemitism, Natan Sharansky said, “I proposed 20 years ago my 3D Test of Antisemitism – demonization, delegitimization and double standards. You may disagree with Israel as much as you wish, but the moment you deny Israel’s right to exist, the moment you connect its leaders with the most awful antisemitic libels … or the moment you apply to Israel the standards that don’t apply to anybody else – like when Israel is denounced for violating human rights more than all the world dictators together – then it’s antisemitism.”