Over the course of the past two or so years, I have often felt alone in trying to warn my fellow Israelis about how bad President Trump is for Israel. I wrote an article before the 2016 US Presidential election explaining why a Jew should not vote for Donald J. Trump. My core argument was that although Trump himself is not an antisemite, and indeed actually likes us (i.e., Israel), his actions if elected would both increase antisemitism in America and ultimately weaken Israel. Unfortunately, my predictions became all too true, as evidenced by the Pittsburgh shooting, which constituted to be the worst antisemitic incident in American history. Yet, that tragedy did not seem to move Israeli opinions. Moreover, Minister Naftali Bennett, who flew to America to show support for the Jewish community in the aftermath of the bloodbath, chided them for blaming Trump for any part of what happened.
After all, Bennett and others keep saying: “Trump is the most pro-Israel President ever.” Trump moved the Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump doesn’t criticize the settlements. Trump even ended the “horrible” Iran deal. All of those things are indeed true. However, Israelis did not seem to understand that Trump is also the most incompetent, uninformed President in American history, whose “America First” instincts are a genuine danger to Israel.
I hope that Trump’s precipitous decision to withdraw American forces from Syria, combined with the resignation of Secretary of Defense Mattis, will convince both the Israeli public and the government that relying on Trump is a major mistake. Anyone who can suddenly (and against the advice of all his advisors) decide to pull back American troops from their very strategic position in Syria is someone who cannot be trusted. Relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem feels good, but does us very little actual good. In contrast, Trump’s decision regarding Syria has genuine negative impact on Israel.
The withdrawal of American forces fully opens the land road into Syria and Lebanon from Iran and eliminates the only significant leverage that existed to force the removal of Iranian troops from Syria. (This has been a definite pattern with Trump’s implementation of foreign policy — repeatedly giving, without requesting anything in return.) Furthermore, Trump’s perceived unwillingness to exercise prolonged military force will diminish American power. Having the largest military in the world does not provide you with power, if potential rivals believe you will not use it.
Finally, and most importantly, Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds fits a pattern that is becoming the Trump Doctrine. The Trump Doctrine asserts that America cannot be counted on by its traditional allies — Who knows if one day Trump will wake up and decide the US should pull out of NATO. Until now the assumption has been that Trump was surrounded by a group of grounded advisors, whose policies everyone might not have agreed with, but whom the world could count on to make sure Trump refrained from making any rash decisions. Now, with resignation of Mattis, the last of the “grownups” is gone. We should rightly fear an unrestrained Trump.
Trump as President has been very pleasing to Israelis. Having a President who does not criticize has felt good. Nicki Haley serving at the UN (which comes to an end next week) has been satisfying. Certainly, having someone “Tell it like it is” feels good. However, for all Haley’s rhetoric, the UN votes have remained unchanged. Israelis hailed Prime Minister Netanyahu for persuading Trump to walk away from the nuclear deal, but does anyone actually think Trump is capable of building an international coalition to confront Iran and achieve a better agreement? Alternatively, does anyone believe the US will go to war with Iran if the limited economic power he can garner through increased sanctions does not succeed?
It is time for Israelis to realize that Donald Trump may have been the worst thing to happen to Israel. As a result of Israeli approval and praise for the president we have severely hurt our relations with the American Jewish community, the majority of whom abhor Trump. In addition, we have caused damage to our relations with the Democratic Party, by so fully fawning over Trump. We have been totally ignoring the dark storm clouds currently hanging over the Trump Administration, called Robert Mueller and the Second District Court of New York.
Furthermore, what is our government in Israel doing now? Is it making a concerted effort to reach out to Democrats? Is it finding ways to repair our relations with American Jewry? No. We are wasting our time trying to persuade American legislators to make BDS illegal in US, as it is in Israel. By doing so, we show our total lack of understanding of how integral free speech is in the American ethos, and risk further alienating potential supporters in America.
Most of the Jewish Neo-Cons have turned into NeverTrumpers. They understood what the Israeli government, and many of the more establishment Jewish, or Israeli Republicans (yes, I mean you Marc Zell) do not comprehend — which is that Donald Trump is a danger to America and a danger to Israel. I am sure that many Trump supporters, both in Israel and abroad, will try to downplay his actions in Syria and claim that it is the exception to how he normally behaves. However, Trump’s abrupt actions regarding Syria are not the exception, that is how he runs his Presidency. Mattis’s letter of resignation is proof of that. It is time to start planning for the day that might come sooner than many expect, when Trump is no longer President, or even worse — if he remains President, while weakening America throughout the world.