Trump, Israel, and Dr. Waxman

Dr. Dov Waxman has published a featured post headlined with a question, “So, you think Trump has been good for Israel?”  As the provocative title suggests, if you think the answer to the question is ‘yes,’ you’re mistaken.  But don’t feel too bad about that, because it turns out that the majority of Israelis—who, Dr. Waxman acknowledges, also think the answer is ‘yes’—also are mistaken.  As a matter of fact, the one who truly knows what is best for Israel isn’t you, and it isn’t the majority of Israelis—it’s Dr. Waxman.

Dr. Waxman’s post begins with this: “Recent polls show that Israelis strongly prefer President Trump to his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.  The reason for this is obvious.  Many Israelis, specifically Jewish Israelis, think that Trump has been the most ‘pro-Israel’ president in modern times.”

Notwithstanding that strong preference of a majority of Israelis, Dr. Waxman implicitly draws a bizarre distinction between Israelis and Jewish Israelis; it’s almost as if he believes Jews are a minority of the Israeli population.  Later in the piece he writes: “But while Trump’s actions have been popular with Israeli Jews….”  And, in a similar vein: “It’s easy to understand why Israelis, especially those on the right, believe that Trump has been so good for Israel.”  Of course, Israelis “on the right” are part of Israel’s population, just like Jewish Israelis.

Dr. Waxman seems to believe that, if a majority of non-Jewish Israelis do not prefer Trump, or a majority of left-wing Israelis do not, then the preference of a majority of all Israelis—including Jewish and right-wing Israelis—is illegitimate, uninformed or unimportant.  This is mystifying.

In addition to this methodological puzzle, there is Dr. Waxman’s claim that “Israel’s core national interests have actually been damaged by President Trump[.]”  How so?  Well, first of all, the support Trump has given Israel has “angered and alienated Palestinians,” which has “made a peace agreement even harder to achieve because he abandoned any pretense of the United States being an ‘honest broker’[.]”

Did the Obama/Biden administration—which presumably did not anger and alienate the Palestinians—achieve a peace agreement?  No.  Did Pres. Clinton, who met with Yasser Arafat more frequently than with any other foreign leader, achieve peace?  No.  Did Jimmy Carter broker an Israeli/Palestinian peace?  No.  Every U.S. administration has failed in that regard, since Pres. Truman first recognized Israel in 1948.  Might the failure to attain peace be attributable in any degree to the intransigence and impotence of Palestinian leadership?

And, speaking of impotent Palestinian leadership, it is remarkable that Dr. Waxman discusses the prospects for Israeli/Palestinian peace without ever mentioning the Islamist terrorists of Hamas.  Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.  The writ of ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the fifteenth (15th) year of his four (4) year term as president of the P.A., does not run to Gaza.  Nevertheless, all the Palestinian terrorist organizations that pose armed threats to Israel are garrisoned in Gaza; those terrorists are the ones who would have to lay down their rockets and mortars, and abandon their cross-border tunnels, and cease sending incendiary balloons over the border, if there were to be peace.

The Islamist terrorists sincerely believe they have a religious obligation to expunge any non-Islamic government from the supposedly ‘Islamic’ lands of Palestine.  Israel cannot attain peace with the Palestinians—whether brokered by the U.S., or anyone else, or no one—as long as the P.A. is too impotent to re-establish its authority over Gaza and the terrorists headquartered there.  Dr. Waxman ignores these hard facts.

Dr. Waxman says that Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal harms Israel.  Of course, the duly-elected Israeli government does not agree, but that is a right-wing government, so what would it know about Israel’s best interests?  Dr. Waxman concedes that U.S. sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy, but he notes that Iran hasn’t agreed to re-negotiate and accept a more stringent deal.  That is true, but one shouldn’t make absolute perfection the enemy of the good.  Damaging Iran’s economy goes a long way toward preventing Iran from engaging in the nefarious activities it might otherwise undertake.  Also, it’s possible that, at some point, economic pressure will indeed force Iran back to the bargaining table.  I cannot foretell the future, and neither can Dr. Waxman.

Dr. Waxman complains that erosion of American ‘soft power’ under Trump damages Israel.  He asserts: “The less global respect there is for the United States, the less influence it can wield on Israel’s behalf in international organizations, like the United Nations.”  In the context of an implicit comparison between Trump and Biden as to whose administration would most benefit Israel, this assertion is breathtaking.

When the Obama/Biden administration was in its last weeks, in December of 2016, it refused to veto U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334.  That one-sided resolution identified only “continuing Israeli settlement activities” as “dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution[.]”  There was no mention of Palestinian terrorism, or Palestinian Islamist extremists, as imperilling that solution.  Every prior U.S. administration vetoed Security Council resolutions that were similarly one-sided; but the Obama/Biden administration did not.

Moreover, Res. 2334 reversed the decades-long U.S. policy that Israel would be required to withdraw from any disputed territory only in the context of a general peace agreement and only after both Israel and the Palestinians had agreed as to the specific areas from which Israel would withdraw (with the Palestinians to receive Israeli land to ‘swap’ for disputed territory retained by Israel).  Resolution 2334, in contrast, states that, if the two sides cannot agree, then Israel must withdraw from every part of the disputed territories; this stands prior U.S. policy on its head.

Joe Biden was, of course, a major player in the administration that decided not to veto 2334.  At the time, he never uttered a word of disagreement with that decision.  In the interval from December of 2016 until today, Biden still has not done so.  And it is a Biden administration, we are told, that will use its U.N. clout to benefit Israel.  Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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