God, save us from America’s leaders

Vladimir Putin carrying his buddy Donald Trump (Wikimedia Commons)
Vladimir Putin carrying his buddy Donald Trump (Wikimedia Commons)

It is unfortunate that Obama leaves office on such a sour note with America’s strongest Middle East ally, Israel. Just over a fifth of Israeli Jews believes the outgoing president has been friendly to us. Ever since he instructed Samantha Powers to abstain and thereby permit UN Resolution 2334 to pass on December 23, his relationship with Israel has been strained even more than usual.

Regardless of what negative effect the resolution might have on Israel’s future power to negotiate an enduring peace agreement with Palestinians, the U.S. president seemed interested only in making it clear for the historical record that he vigorously opposed Israel’s ancient right to settle its own land.

The Obama administration often seemed to want to drive a wedge between the Israeli people and their elected leadership, as if Netanyahu’s government was solely responsible for Palestinian refusal to negotiate with their Jewish neighbors in good faith. They never really negotiated in good faith with any other Israeli government. So how was the current government any worse?

John Kerry’s December 28 lecturing of Israel put the final nail in the coffin of the Obama and Netanyahu relationship. To add injury to insult, he predicted on January 6 that if the U.S. moves its Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem under a Trump administration, “You’d have an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”

Enemies of Israel quickly interpreted Kerry’s prediction as justification for terror. Two days later, Fadi al-Qunbar, an apparent ISIS sympathizer from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, rammed a truck into a group of Israelis soldiers at the Haas Promenade, killing four of them and injuring 16 others. Relatives said the terrorist was angry about Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

We all know that Kerry is angry with Israelis for failing to help him win a Nobel Prize at their expense, but his prediction and seeming justification of Palestinian violence feels like incitement comparable to that of Mahmoud Abbas. In fact, Abbas instructed mosques throughout the West Bank to focus on the embassy relocation in their sermons before Fadi al-Qunbar’s terror attack. It is long past time for John Kerry to go. May he retire in peace and get out of our lives.

Barack Obama’s last interview as president with Israeli media was broadcast on January 10 with Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan. UN Resolution 2334 was brought up along with the Israeli sense of betrayal that the U.S. president would allow UN Security Council condemnation of Israel so close to his leaving office. Then Dayan asked Mr. Obama if Netanyahu could rest easy, not fearing any other surprises that the American president might have up his sleeve before leaving office.

President Obama responded, “Well, I think there’s an interesting question as to whether he’ll sleep better after January 20.”

His point is well taken. Donald J. Trump is not only unpredictable, his personal history has been one of trying to crush those who dare to oppose him. Hopefully, Israel will not in the future become the target of a Trump Twitter rampage. At this point, we can only hope for the best and pray that Trump keeps his campaign promises to stand by Israel and the Jewish people against those who really would like to destroy us.

In the Channel 2 interview, Obama was not as graphic as Kerry, but he did predict a worsening situation between Israelis and Palestinians if Trump doesn’t maintain pressure on Israel for its settlement policy. It was another example of classic Obama. He feels that his prescription for Israeli/Palestinian peace is the only possible one.

The arrogance of Obama and Kerry is not the worst thing that can happen to Israel or the world. Especially since the Sochi Olympics, Putin has flexed Russian muscle in Europe and the Middle East. The world could become a very scary place relatively quickly.

After Trump and Putin engaged in mutual praise for several months, Trump in a heartbeat threatened a nuclear arms race in response to Putin’s discussion of Russian arms modernization. Putin was smart enough not to answer the tweeter-in-chief in kind but de-escalated the situation by saying that if there is a new nuclear arms race, it won’t be started by the Russians. Trump again praised Putin for his high intelligence.

Many Americans see Donald Trump as a pathological liar and wholly unpredictable, doing and saying whatever is necessary to successfully navigate the moment as any 9-year-old would do with his hand caught in a cookie jar. Can Trump really change from one of the most self-absorbed people anyone can imagine to someone who puts the welfare and peace of the world before the elevation of the Trump name?

To complicate matters, Vladimir Putin is no less self-absorbed than Donald Trump. Here is a man who likes to be photographed shirtless as if the rest of the world is dying to see an old man’s chest. A few unmarried older Russian women might be impressed, but the rest of us just think he’s silly.

At first appearance, the future Trump/Putin relationship looks like a match made in heaven. In his December press conference, Putin praised Trump for his ability to gauge the American mood well enough to get elected. The Russian leader gloated over the fact that his own favorability ratings has risen among rank-and-file Republicans.

The world is about to witness two alpha males walking into the same arena. The honeymoon between Trump and Putin will, no doubt, be short lived. U.S. intelligence chiefs (CIA, FBI, NSA, and DNI) on January 6 presented Trump with a two-page synopsis of compromising personal and financial information Russian operatives claim to have about him. Russian blackmail is a concern because of alleged sex videos involving Moscow prostitutes during Trump’s 2013 visit to a luxury Russian hotel.

The Russians really see Trump as a blubbering idiot. Compared to Vladimir Putin, Trump is a naïve upstart on the world stage. Trump verbally punishes his opponents, but Putin’s enemies come up missing. Putin recognizes Trump’s ego and will flatter him only so he can control him. After Trump appeared to side with him against the American intelligence community, Putin will reward him by humiliating him in front of the American people and making mincemeat of him on the world stage.

God, save us from America’s leaders!

You may write to Yoeli Kaufman at yoeli@israeliupdate.co.il

About the Author
Yoeli Kaufman earned his bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and then worked as an analyst and Arabic translator for U.S. Army Intelligence. His master’s degree was in Educational Administration from Temple University in Philadelphia. Eli now regularly writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, and Diario Judío México.
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