American Jews for Donald Trump?

By Henry Schvey

Amid the incessant election babble of recent months, there was one headline that stood out for me as an American who happens to be Jewish. That was the news that Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas casino owner, Republican party broker and supporter of Israel, has come out in support the now presumptive nominee of the Republican party, Donald Trump. 

Trump, Adelson said to the Jewish organization World Values Network, “will be good for Israel.” This comment had low traction in a crazed news cycle filled with Trump and Ted Cruz’s vituperative comments hurled at one another, but had particular resonance for me, simply because it raised a pertinent (and unanswered) question: Why would Trump be good for Israel, and why should American voters, especially Jewish Republican voters, consider supporting him in the November general election? 

Both Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, have both been fervent supporters of Israel in their stump speeches, so it may be difficult to ascertain why Trump might be a better advocate for the State of Israel than Clinton. But let us, for the sake of argument, assume that Adelson is correct, and Trump would be a better friend to Israel than his opponent, if by “better friend,” we mean more supportive financially and in defense of Israel’s military objectives. Yet, even were this so, I still argue that American Jews’ support of Trump would be absolutely disastrous for Israel. Why? The answer, I submit, goes far deeper than whether Republicans should or should not, unquestioningly offer support of their party’s nominee. Instead, Republican support for Trump in the general election requires us to bore deeply into the origins of Israel’s history and her aspirations as a Jewish democratic state. 

It will be almost universally acknowledged that relations between the United States and Israel are at an all-time low, a result of the initially frosty, now overtly hostile, personal and political antipathy between President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. Their profoundly opposed views on a nuclear deal with Iran famously led to Netanyahu’s acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to snub the president and present his case against the Iran deal directly to Congress—a strategy which ultimately proved unsuccessful. It is devoutly to be hoped that the next four years will see an improvement in this relationship between our two heads of states, whomever they may be. But the real conundrum for us today is how this old (and absolutely vital) friendship can best be restored for the sake of both countries and peace in the Middle East and the world at large.

And it is here that Adelson’s comment about Trump “being good for Israel” seems so terribly short-sighted, and even dangerous. True, a Trump presidency would alter the dynamic between Washington and Israel—but would it alter it for the better even if it were ostensibly more pro-Israel? My own belief is that it would be disastrous, and particularly for Israel. 

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With Israel’s nominal support for a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority already suffering a grievous blow as a result of Netanyahu’s ongoing, unconditional support for increased settlements on the West Bank, the support of a President Trump would demolish any hopes of negotiations before they ever began. How, it might fairly be asked, would Palestinians (or the many countries sympathetic to their very real plight), ever consider the United States a fair broker in Middle East negotiations with a “deal maker” who has openly supported racist and proto-fascist policies at home? 

Trump’s statements against Mexican immigrants; his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the homeland; his attacks against tortured veterans; his mockery of people with disabilities; his sexist attacks against women—all these not merely disqualify Trump as a leader of the free world—they also undermine his potential advocacy of Israel. 

Trump has gone to great lengths to establish his Curriculum Vitae as Demagogue-in-Chief, not as someone who can be counted on to advance the cause of democracy either in the United States—or abroad. How then can the Republican party support for president of the United States a man who repudiates the very essence of what Israel means? And can Israel, a country whose birth was created in response to the Nazi Holocaust and systematic persecution and decimation of a significant ethnic minority, possibly benefit from the support of a man for president who willfully calls for disenfranchisement of Muslim citizens because they happen to embrace their religion? Can a more hypocritical stance be imagined, especially for Jews whose recent history has been so deeply poisoned by such hate? 

Adelson’s ignorant contention that such a man might be “good for Israel” should not be lost amid the already chaotic news cycle. It should be a wake-up call which gives us cause for real alarm.