Trump and Israel

There is concern about Donald Trump’s stance on Israel. The front runner for the Republican candidacy for president of the United States has said that if elected he wants to be neutral on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Two weeks ago on MSNBC television, Trump said that being “sort of a neutral guy” would put him in a better position to help deal with the conflict. Jonathan Tobin for Commentary thereafter wrote: “This is not the first time Trump has signaled that, in contrast to all the other remaining 2016 Republican presidential candidates, he would not prioritize the alliance with Israel.”

Tobin cited a Trump interview with the Associated Press in December in which Trump spoke of wanting to broker a Middle East deal “and wondered whether Israel would be willing to ‘sacrifice.’” Tobin said: “That statement demonstrated Trump’s appalling ignorance of the last 20 years of peace processing, during which Israel has made great sacrifices and repeatedly offered the Palestinians peace only to be rejected each time. The MSNBC remarks build on this ignorance.”

“As he is on so many other issues with respect to Israel, Trump is the outlier of the Republican Party,” said Tobin. In the “last few decades…support for Israel had become almost uniform among Republicans.” Wrote Tobin: “Trump would reverse that trend.”

Trump’s rival, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, contrasted his position on Israel with Trump’s last Thursday in the last in a series of debates between those seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

In it, Trump said President Barack Obama “has treated Israel horribly…I have very close ties to Israel. I’ve received…many of the greatest awards given by Israel. As president, however, there’s nothing that I would rather do [than] bring peace to Israel and its neighbors. I may not be successful in doing it. It’s probably the toughest negotiation of anywhere in the world, of any kind, OK? But, it doesn’t help if I start saying I’m very pro-Israel, very pro-Israel, more than anybody on this stage. It doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors [of Israel].”

But Rubio scored Trump for that argument saying he “cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith. The Palestinian Authority has walked away from multiple efforts to make peace, very generous offers from the Israelis. Instead, here’s what the Palestinians do. They teach their four-year-old children that killing Jews is a glorious thing. Here’s what Hamas does. They launch rockets and terrorist attacks again Israel on an ongoing basis. The bottom line is, a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, given the current makeup of the Palestinians, is not possible.’’

Rubio continued that the next U.S. president ‘’needs to be someone like me who will stand firmly on the side of Israel. I will be on a side. I will be on Israel’s side every single day.”

In that debate, too, Rubio dramatically increased his attack on Trump personally calling him a “con artist”—a charge he has since been repeating. “It’s time to pull his mask off so people can see what we’re dealing with here,” Rubio said at campaign rally the next Friday. “You all have friends that are thinking about voting for Donald Trump,” Rubio went on, “Friends do not let friends vote for con artists.”

That could be the key issue in regard to Trump and Israel—he is not a conventional U.S. politician and his bid for the U.S. presidency has been far from conventional. He prides himself as being a billionaire businessman—which he emphasizes repeatedly.

And his activities as a businessman have been colored by hucksterism.

In November, Time magazine published an article headlined: “TRUMP U. What the litigation over Trump University reveals about the man who would be President.”

Written by Steven Brill, journalist, attorney and founder of Brill’s Content, a media watch publication, it compared to snake oil what was named Trump University, “a series of adult-education classes offering Donald’s Trump’s real estate investing methods.”

“Trump and his university—which operated from 2005 through 2010, when it was shut down as…[law]suits and multiple state attorneys general investigations were beginning—lured approximately 7,000 consumers into paying $1,495 to $34,995 for courses,” Brill relates.  “Trump ‘created, funded, implemented and benefited from a scam that cost them…thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars each,’ the lawyers suing him have argued.”

As Rubio said last week: “I mean this is a guy that’s taken Trump Airlines bankrupt, Trump Vodka, nobody wanted it, Trump Mortgage, was a disaster, Trump University was a fraud.”

Now, as a candidate for president, as Howard Fineman, global editorial director at the Huffington Post wrote last month: “Trump deploys fame for fame’s sake, taps into populist expressions of fear, hatred and resentment and shows a knack for picking fights and a braggart’s focus on the horse race. All of which allow him to play into—and exploit—every media weakness and bad habit in a chase for audience and numbers.”

Politico in a story last month—“How Trump Did It”—revealed how in 2013 he told a group of “New York political operatives [who] had come to ask him to run for governor” that his plan was to run for president instead. He told them, “I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off me.”

There is quite a move these days within the Republican Party and beyond to stop Trump.

“The moment of truth: we must stop Trump,” was the headline of a piece last week in The Washington Post by Dr. Danielle Allen, director of the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and professor in Harvard’s Department of Government and also Graduate School of Education.

“Like any number of us raised in the last 20th Century,” she wrote, “I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand. Leave aside whether a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler is accurate. That is not my point. My point rather is about how a demagogic opportunist can exploit a divided country.”

The Washington Post itself, in an editorial last week titled “GOP leaders, you must do everything in your power to stop Trump,” declared that “history will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer.”

It continued: “This is a front-runner with no credible agenda and no suitable experience. He wants the United States to commit war crimes, including torture…He admires Russian dictator Vladimir Putin… He would round up and deport 11 million people, a forced movement on a scale not attempted since Stalin or perhaps Pol Pot. He has, during the course of his campaign, denigrated women, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, people with disabilities and many more. He routinely trades wild falsehoods and doubles down when his lies are exposed.”

The new host of the popular “Daily Show” on U.S. cable TV, Trevor Noah, said recently, “For me, as an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home.” He compared Trump to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and said that in this way Trump “is presidential.”

In an interview last week with the newspaper Israel Hayom Trump said: “Don’t get confused there in Israel: I am currently your biggest friend. My daughter is married to a Jew who is an enthusiastic Israel supporter, and I have taken part in many Israel Day Parades. My friendship with Israel is very strong.” He went on that he was for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and that the Iran nuclear deal was the “worst deal that Israel could have gotten.”

Indeed, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is not only married to Jared Kushner, a real estate developer and also owner of the New York Observer newspaper, but before marrying him in 2009 underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism.

She keeps kosher and last year explained to Vogue: “We’re pretty observant…It’s been such a great life decision for me…I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.” Ivanka is vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization.

About the Author
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.
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