A few weeks ago, President Trump walked out to the media microphones on the White House lawn and nonchalantly announced that, in his estimation, the Democratic Party had become anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish.
This took place in the immediate aftermath of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments that targeted AIPAC and the use of what became commonly referred to as “antisemitic tropes” intended to denigrate Jews and Israel.
What motivated Mr. Trump to say what he did was the Democratic Party’s hesitancy to condemn Ms. Omar because they were afraid of disenfranchising the youthful and extreme faction of Democrats that many believe might be the future of the party.
So the discussion and debate ensued: are Democrats anti-Israel, as the president suggested, or are they just less pro-Israel than they once were? And if indeed that is the case, then perhaps this can be characterized as their being a bit more anti-Israel than they once were in the past, and that is what the president was thinking.
In the aftermath of last week’s elections in Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s campaign declaration that he might be ready to annex and apply Israeli jurisdiction to Judea and Samaria, areas of the country that have been referred to as “disputed territories” for more than a half-century, the issue of being pro-Israel has crystalized slightly.
While it is unlikely that this type of controversial annexation will be taking place anytime soon, the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the recognition by the U.S. of Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights indeed makes the idea of extending Israeli law to these territories more of a possible and plausible reality.
So let’s take a look for a moment at the attitude and position of some leading Democrats on these same issues and try to ascertain whether anything about these policy matters can credibly be called anti-Israel in any way.
A few weeks ago, when President Trump unhesitatingly said that the present Democratic Party is both anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, it left a lot of folks both inside and outside of Congress shrugging their shoulders. After all, many wondered, how can Mr. Trump say that if so many leading members of Congress are Jewish, and significant supporters of Israel and the important U.S.–Israel relationship?
As we have learned, sometimes surprisingly, over the last decade or so, it is possible to believe that you are a staunch supporter of Israel and still advocate for policies that are, at worst, potentially damaging to Israel or, at best, make no sense and are contradictory or just plain hollow.
Just one of these Middle East plans supported by leading Jewish members of Congress like Senator Chuck Schumer, Representatives Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, and Ted Deutch is the two-state solution. Breaking down this long-held U.S. and U.S. State Department stance means the establishment of a hostile Palestinian state either adjacent to or, in some instances, like on the issue of Jerusalem, directly in the center of what is today Israel.
At the same time, these very same Jewish legislators strongly support Israel’s right to live in peace and security and, where necessary, to defend itself militarily from enemies.
This means that they are, in effect, promoting and even insisting that Israel work in the direction of setting up a state on its borders, which they will also allow Israel to defend militarily. If these officials would just take a step back and view what they are saying and try to apply these contradictory positions to reality, they would quickly see that the two are untenable.
The situation is such that after more than a half-century of a growing, successful, and mostly peaceful presence of Jews in these territories, how inane is it to be supporting both sides of the equation?
Just the other day, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas commented about the proposed Trump peace plan that any proposal that does not award Jerusalem as the capital city of the new Palestine is just not acceptable to the Arab side.
So how is it that these very same Jewish members of Congress supported the designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city but at the same time advocate for a policy that calls for the division of Jerusalem under Arab rule?
Last year, when the United States finally fulfilled an obligation U.S. law books for 22 years — mandating the embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — there was discomfort from many Democrats and from people who had previously voted for Jerusalem to be recognized as Israel’s capital city.
This was just one of the policies that Democrats at one point supported but now found themselves opposing because the sum total of their entire political strategy is to disagree with and oppose everything that President Trump supports.
This is the Pythagorean Theorem of Democratic politics. That is, if a=b and b=c, then a=c as well. Translated to the Trump approach to Israel, this means that if the president moved the embassy to Jerusalem, recognized the Golan Heights as Israel’s, and might even accede to Mr. Netanyahu’s promise to annex parts of Judea and Samaria, Democrats do not even have to think, all they have to do is oppose it.
And now that the 2020 election is coming into sight, it looks like the policy of being against anything that Trump is in favor of, or being in favor of anything the president opposes, is just not a policy that can elect a Democrat.
On the matter of Israel, our Democratic friends will have to decide pretty soon whether they are supporters of Israel or just opponents of Donald Trump. The way the president sees it, if he is pro-Israel, which no one can argue otherwise, and he is close with and determined to accommodate the American Jewish community on a variety of levels, then, ipso facto and as a matter of policy, the Democrats are, like the president says, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.
When Mr. Trump made that pronouncement on the White House lawn, it seemed clear and sensible to him, and guess what? It is beginning to make more sense every day.
That White House Meeting
The buzz for a few days in the Jewish community was that President Trump was calling together Jewish leaders for a meeting at the White House to discuss issues of the day. The proposed conclave was on Tuesday, just a few days prior to Pesach and seen as an opportunity for the president to express his gratitude to his Jewish community supporters, and for Jewish leadership to do the same and express our communal gratitude to the president for all his pro-Israel policy positions.
The news, however, within the community was not necessarily about agenda or the topics to be covered at the meeting but rather about who was invited to attend. And it seemed that after viewing the guest list, it was clear that those invited were largely representatives of the Orthodox Jewish community, with the more liberal streams of Judaism and especially those critical of Mr. Trump and his administration policy excluded from the meeting.
According to those who attended the meeting there were about 75 people present.
“It turns out the meeting was about nothing specific and more than anything else an opportunity to interface with senior White House staff,” said a participant in the meeting who wanted to remain anonymous. Bottom line of that statement is that neither President Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were present at the get-together.
There was some anticipation that presidential son-in-law and chief adviser Jared Kushner would be there, but he was also a no-show.
The meeting was largely conducted by Rabbi Levi Shem Tov of Chabad of D.C. with the presence of Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer who also addressed the gathering. Senior negotiator Jason Greenblatt was also present at the meeting but did not speak.
So what was this meeting really all about? Well, it might have been a combination of a nice gesture to Jewish leaders who support the president and a poke in the eye to those critical of Trump policy, specifically on Israel. Those who traveled from New York and other areas were disappointed at the lack of presidential participation, but it was still important to be there and express support for Mr. Trump and his extraordinary graciousness and keen insight when it comes to the U.S.–Israel relationship.