I just watched the news conference between Bibi and President Donald live and now the talking heads are talking. I just heard from fellow Cleveland Aaron David Miller who is certainly an expert in the area of Middle East diplomacy. Before the leader of my Homeland and the leader of my Country get deep in their conversations, I share these words about “shared values,” hoping these words are heard by the right ears, in other words, Jared and Ivanka’s ears. So I call out: Sh’ma First Son-in-Law and Daughter, as you embark upon the challenge of pursuing the “Ultimate Deal.”
First, fear mongering has never been nor should it ever be a shared value between the two democracies. As I’ve listened to my President in these first weeks of his Administration, I’ve been sickened by his use of language and innuendo to create anxiety and fear on the ground, here in the United States. Yes President Trump, there are real radical Islamic terrorists who want to kill me because I am a Jew and because I am an American. But make no mistake – the chances of being in harm’s way from a radical Islamic terrorist in Israel are far far far greater than the chances are here in the US. I’ve had a home in Jerusalem since the Spring of 1999. I’ve lived with the real fear and legitimate anxiety that is a part of everyday life in Israel. I’ve experienced the emotional trauma of being a part of a society constantly under attack from a dysfunctional and distraught Palestinian society whose corrupt leadership rejected the deal brokered by President Clinton in the summer of 2000. I can tell you for a fact – a REAL FACT, not an alternative fact, that the fear factor in Israel is fundamentally different for a reason. The threat is a real threat, not a manufactured threat. Please stop trying to find an equivalency of fear to justify your Muslim ban. It just doesn’t work for this American Jewish woman. I would hope it would not work for Jared and Ivanka, as well.
Of equal importance, please note that while both Israel and the US value Freedom of the Press, both Bibi and Donald seem to want to control the press. I must remind the Prime Minister and the President that manipulating the media to ensure that the story being told validates your version of reality should NOT be a shared value. With the free newspaper Israel Hayom being the Prime Ministers’s official mouthpiece, Bibi, with the financial backing of American Jew Sheldon Adelson, has attempted to spin his own story. The investigation into the Yediot Ahranot scandal has exposed Bibi’s naked attempt to manipulate the press. In his authoritarian way, President Trump continues to attack the respected US media for reporting Fake News, arguing that the leaks exposing the wrongs of General Flynn are the problem. Those of us who are following the Trump Administration continue to be amazed at the chaos that is oozing out of the White House. As an American Jew, there is neither pride nor comfort in noting that both of these leaders are employing tactics with the free press that are reminiscent of a very dark time in Jewish history. I would hope that Jared and Ivanka also see these most disturbing comparisons.
While talking about the 1 or 2 State Solution, which seems to be a new policy concept, the Prime Minister stressed that he is interested in “substance”, not “labels.” I suggest to the Prime Minister, and the President, that labels (i.e. words) are the tools we use to describe and explain the facts that make up the reality that we share. I also remind the Prime Minister and the President (and his minions) that when labels accurately reflect the facts on the ground, those labels are then describing the facts, the reality that we share, the truth. As a Jew, Bibi should understand the power of words to create reality. As President, Trump either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that his tweeted words have the power of the Presidency to create reality. Rather than complain about labels, perhaps both the President and the Prime Minister should reflect on how words, as well as deeds, have consequences in affairs of state.
Finally, I need to call out the relationship that each leader has with the right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. I trust I am not the only American Jew who is uncomfortable with the fact that Sheldon Adelson seems to be a “shared value” between the President and the Prime Minister. I am concerned that Adelson and Bibi share a vision for Israel’s future, that Trump’s nominated Ambassador to Israel comes from the same right-wing camp, and that Adelson has Trump’s ear. On the other hand, I do have a bit of confidence that Jared Kushner is listening to some of the best minds that have been working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.
While I certainly don’t include myself in that group of policy experts, I know I have something to say from where I sit, whether in Cleveland, New York or Jerusalem. Jared and Ivanka, I hope that from where you sit, you hear some of what I have to say today. I pray that you both work to remind the President, as well as the Prime Minister, that the values we aspire to share are those that make democracies open, robust, fair and just. I pray that you know that the stakes are sky high in this area of foreign policy. I pray you work to ensure that no leader gambles with the future of the modern Jewish democratic state of Israel for the sake of the “Ultimate Deal.” Amen.