This is an open letter to my Israeli friends and my American Jewish friends who are heralding Donald Trump as the Great Diplomatic Savior in the wake of his most recent diplomatic tweet. Once again, decades of sage foreign policy are upended by a man whose ignorance and arrogance continue to shock Americans like me, despite the daily onslaught of reports of his immorality if not his criminality.
I am not going to try to make the case that Trump’s patently political move to give Bibi the “Golan Gift” is bad for Israel. It gives words to facts on the ground, in an area that has not been a major source of conflict for Israel since the 1981 annexation. But just as the decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was the right move by the wrong person, so is this a positive move for Israel at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. We must not ignore the fact that these moves are being orchestrated by one of the most divisive figures in American political history. To see Bibi and Trump so close is sickening to me yet it is only fitting that the Prime Minister who embraces the far-right party Otzma Yehudit would embrace the President who sees fine people on both sides in Charlottesville.
I am uncomfortable that progressives within the Democratic Party are unfairly critical of Israeli policy without being fully informed of the facts on the ground. I trust AIPAC to do their work, educating American legislators from both parties, giving them experiences that inform their foreign policy decision making. One of the great memories from my Jerusalem life is hosting then Senator John Corzine of New Jersey for Shabbat dinner, the day after the Sbarro bombing in August of 2001 on behalf of the AIPAC office in Israel. With my move to New York, Jerry Nadler is now my congressman. My fantasy is that he introduces me to his colleague, the rock star from the Bronx, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, so that I can begin to help her understand the complexities that make up the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab dynamic.
These are strange times for Americans, for Israelis, for Zionists wherever they reside. What I ask all of my friends to do is to take one step back and see the moral character of both of these leaders. Please, don’t let your Zionism blind you to the facts on the ground. Please, don’t let Bibi’s scare tactics obscure what he would like to keep submerged. Apparently, the latest submarine scandal is coming to the surface and is making political waves, as it should.
Finally, I ask all of my friends to acknowledge a simple fact with me. We do, in fact, show our support for Israel with our dollars. Politically, while AIPAC doesn’t financially support candidates, AIPAC activists donate significant sums to politicians of both parties; that is part of political process in the United States of America in 21st century so yes, in part, it is about “the Benjamins.” So, rather than bemoan the fact that our facts on the ground are being called out, let’s take the sentiment and give it a new meaning – let it be about “the Benny.” Vote for Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party.
In other words, the Jewish people need new leadership in Israeli government. So, my closing plea to my Israeli friends is to vote for a new chapter in Israeli political history. The history of the Jewish people is depending on you. In return, know that no matter who is in the The White House, the United States will always have your back. Please, don’t let your Zionism blind you to the dangerous demagoguery of both the President and Prime Minister.