Exactly four years ago, I reluctantly wrote take one of this article. As a historian who maintains a website that includes a section chronicling the history of American Presidential elections, and a book with the same title, and as someone with a regular column in Newsweek, called “Tel Aviv Diary,” I had attempted to remain non-partisan. Over the years, I have largely succeeded in maintaining objectivity regarding American politics. But, at that moment, when it had become clear that the election of President Donald J. Trump was a real possibility, I felt I had no choice but to speak out against what I saw the genuine danger to Jews and the State of Israel, not to mention to the United States, and the world-at-large.
Now, four years later, unfortunately, much of what I predicted has happened. Again, like last time, I will not touch on all of the areas that have made Trump the worst President in United States history, or all of the harm he has done to the world in this article. I’ll leave that for my history website. Instead, I will focus on the ways in which Trump has been bad for Israel, and why he has been bad for Jews, through my lens as an American-Israeli.
Let’s start with the Jews in America. In 2016, I wrote that I did not believe Trump himself to be an overt antisemite — still true. Although I asserted: “However, as a result of the nativist, racist, xenophobic rhetorical approach of his campaign, Trump has unearthed a level of overt antisemitism in America that I thought would never return.”
Sadly, the nativist, xenophobic rhetoric never ended. Trump stayed in campaign mode throughout his Presidency. The Anti-Defamation League’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the United States recorded more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment; representing a 12% increase over the previous year. This constitutes the highest level of antisemitic incidents since ADL’s tracking began in 1979.
The antisemitism that re-emerged incited both the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation shooting in Pittsburgh, as well as the attack in the Poway, California synagogue. Trump’s rhetoric never changes. He has failed to condemn QAnon (a clearly antisemitic ideology), which has become nearly mainstream in the Republican Party under Trump. Another four years of Trump will see more oil thrown on the extremist fire; fomenting even more antisemitism in the US. Will antisemitism disappear if Trump is defeated? That is not likely. But without the President of the United States stoking the fires, perhaps surging antisemitism can be brought back under control.
Now let’s turn to Israel. There is no question that Trump has been the most pro-Israel President in US history, in the short term. And Israel, like someone on a sugar high, has adored Trump’s love. However, like all sugar highs, the euphoria slowly wears off. Four years ago, I wrote: “A person who does not comprehend that US alliances have been the key to world peace for the last 70 years, and refuses to understand there is a price for that affinity, weakens the United States”.
A person who seems unable to accept that Russia is behind the recent hacking of the American Democratic system — after being told so by every single US intelligence agency — is definitively dangerous. A person who seems utterly unable to criticize Putin, one of the worst actors on the world stage, undermines Israel’s security, and the stability of the larger world.
Four years later, everything I predicted has come true. Trump has weakened US Alliances all over the world. None of America’s traditional allies feel the need to follow the United States’ lead — after Trump stabbed many of them in the back, in all the arenas of multilateralism, such as, the climate accords, which the rest of the world supported. As seen by its actions with the Kurds in Syria, the fecklessness of the US decision process made it clear that relying on the United States under Trump is a dangerous bet.
A Trump supporter would undoubtedly respond — Look what the US did … It did what Israel (or at least, Netanyahu) wanted and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. Let’s look at that decision — The JCPOA was no doubt a flawed deal. Nevertheless, what did pulling out of the agreement accomplish? Teheran has sped up its development of nuclear fuel unimpeded, and the United States has received zero support from the rest of the nations to support the announcement of a snapback of sanctions. Like everything else about the Trump Administration, it’s inability to plan beyond its first move has doomed its Iran policy. Maximum economic pressure brought by the US alone has not caused Teheran to cry “Uncle,” and since there is no “Plan B,” Israel is ultimately worse off.
I admit that Israel’s recent peace agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan are very much a product of Trump’s transactional means of conducting foreign policy. And, moreover, that these agreements are beneficial for Israel, in balance. This normalization does come at a price, i.e., the sale of very advanced military equipment to the Gulf States. Supporting the wider sale of this equipment is a risk likely worth taking, but it is a risk just the same. So, for that mediation, and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, I have to give Trump credit. However, overall, Trump has weakened the United States, and anything that undermines the United States on the world stage weakens Israel.
Finally, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. When I speak to the rare friend or family member who supports Trump in the US, I usually hear the same refrain— “But, what about the far-leftist/antisemites in the Democratic Party?” They generally refer to what is currently called “The squad,” i.e. four very progressive young Congresswoman. I will not spend time defending these political leaders and have certainly been critical of them in my writing.
The squad represents a small, but vocal part of the Democratic Party, the flank of the party that was defeated in the Primaries. The Democratic nominee is Joe Biden, the most centrist of all the candidates. His cabinet and advisors will reflect his views. In contrast, the most extreme elements of the Republican Party call the shots in the current Administration. Fear of a future left-wing takeover of the Democratic party is not an excuse for supporting the most right-wing and incompetent, Republican Administration in history.
A Biden presidency will bring a return to normalcy, a return to the center, a restoration of the alliance’s Trump has spurned, and, most notably, a re-establishment of competency. Israel and Jews need a competent, predictable, and centrist American Administration. If you vote for Donald Trump, you are voting against that, the safety of American Jewry, and the long-term safety of Israel.