I was never a one-issue candidate when it came to voting for President. Yet, an issue that was always a determining factor to me was the potential of any candidate to effect a durable peace between Israel and her neighbors. With a great deal of family and many friends in Israel, this issue is vitally important to me, not just politically and religiously, but because of the deep personal and familial issues. President after President have addressed this challenge by either side-stepping or actively engaging in attempts to effectuate a peace in the region.
What has been clear is that despite some partial cold peace agreements, the situation has remained unresolved, unstable and unpredictable for over 70 years. Listening and relying on experts, pundits and family and knowledgeable friends to help formulate my thinking, it is clear to me that a unique perfect storm of factors will need to take place before peace is at hand and that is a formula the leaders have not yet developed.
To be honest, I was hoping that unique personal attributes both Barak Hussein Obama and Donald Trump brought to their administrations might, in fact, be key ingredients in a formula that had some extra schmaltz to move the peace process forward.
Unlike Presidents before him, Obama was a worldly articulate person with an internationalized background with whom non-Americans and even our enemies might identify in terms of being an honest broker in peace efforts. He had surrounded himself with Jews and Israel sympathizers in his first term and there was a perceived hope among may supporters that he might be able to go and do things none of his predecessors could do.
Surrounded by David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and appointing Hebrew-speaking Dan Shapiro as Israeli Ambassador to Israel seemed quite promising, as well as holding a Seder during his campaign and later in the White House. Many Jews seeking peace were encouraged by all this, hoping he could be an honest broker as he simultaneously tried to endear himself to Muslims going through their Arab Spring. Traditional Jewish Democrats were hoping he was the right man, with the right skill set to broker a lasting peace deal. It seemed quite promising.
Unfortunately, the wheels started coming off the bus, when it became clear that while President Obama was claiming to “have Israel’s back,” he was also kowtowing to increasingly anti-Israel forces within his party and in the community at large, which effected the Obama-Netanyahu relationship culminating in a perfect storm of diplomatic calamity with Netanyahu emerging as the Republican Senator from the State of Israel, the Democrats passing the very dangerous Iran agreement, lighting up the Middle East, the defeat of a failed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and victory for reality TV star and misogynist, real estate developer and playboy, Donald Trump to be elected President of the United State, elected by many former Democratic Jews reacting to Obama’s failed Middle East policies.
As one who saw and commented on the failings of both Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later John Kerry vis a vis the search for Middle East peace and the limitations of Donald Trump to leader our country during the campaign, I was willing to privately (though not publicly) concede that perhaps Trump in his own unique way (and I am being very polite and diplomatic here) could relate at a human level to some of the leaders of the Middle East who share some of his personal traits (we’ll leave it at that) and effectuate movement towards some peace deal. After all, this is an international business man who knows how to trade at the international bazaar as successfully as any businessman in developing safe spaces for the rich and famous. He was also a man surrounded by others who could as well. And like the leaders in the Middle East with whom he is dealing, he is quirky, unpredictable and a bit larcenous in nature. So the hope is that he fits in well with this group of gang and tribal leaders to do some trading.
And now, as Trump leans toward Netanyahu and suggests that “tough compromises will have to be made, isn’t that right???” and announces sales of billions of dollars worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it appears the King of Saudia Arabia has become his new BBF and Israel is actively looking elsewhere for alliances as it stumbles along and alienates Diasporan Jews with the age-old suicidal activity of playing “who is a good Jew?” The situation is further complicated by sending in an inexperienced Jared Kushner and Robert Friedman in as Peace Envoy and Ambassador to Israel respectively to try to negotiate a peace deal. Where experienced expert diplomats have failed in the past, there are some serious questions as to whether these two have the skill to have gravitas to move the process forward.
It is all confounded with Trump’s masterful ability of creating reality TV optics designed to hide the facts, but paint a self-promoting marketing picture of himself as making the Middle East peaceful….