Hail the chief?

Has the Is­raeli taboo on crit­i­ciz­ing Trump been lifted?

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By GIL HOFF­MAN (Kevin La­mar­que/ Reuters)

Two pow­er­ful fig­ures in the United States have re­cently un­der­scored the mas­sive gap be­tween Is­rael and Amer­i­can Jews: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Won­der Woman star Gal Gadot.

In her hu­mor­ous open­ing mono­logue on last week­end’s Satur­day Night Live, Gadot joked about how the show’s writ­ers (who in­clude a Fried­man and a Born­stein) had an un­so­phis­ti­cated view of Is­rael and had her eat­ing hum­mus in ev­ery sketch.

With Trump, the dif­fer­ences are no laugh­ing mat­ter.

The Pew Re­search Cen­ter found that the per­cent­age of Amer­i­can Jews who voted for Trump was smaller than that of any other re­li­gious group in the United States, with 71% cast­ing bal­lots for Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton and just 24% for Trump.

By con­trast, the same Pew Re­search Cen­ter re­leased a study of 37 coun­tries in June that in­di­cated that Trump’s rat­ings were lower than his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama’s at the end of his term in ev­ery coun­try sur­veyed ex­cept Is­rael and Rus­sia. The only coun­try in the world where con­fi­dence in Trump was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than Is­rael was the Philip­pines.

It is no won­der that when­ever Trump made state­ments or moves that re­sulted in con­dem­na­tion from Amer­i­can Jews, he was treated by Is­rael with kid gloves. Ex­am­ples in­clude leak­ing of sen­si­tive Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion to Rus­sia, reach­ing a deal with the Rus­sians about Syria that gave a foothold to Iran, and a de­ci­sion to de­lay mov­ing the US Em­bassy to Jerusalem that came right af­ter a Trump visit to Is­rael that was seen by Is­raelis as very pos­i­tive.

But no is­sue has high­lighted the dif­fer­ences on Trump be­tween Is­rael and Amer­i­can Jews more than an­tisemitism in the US.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu faced crit­i­cism in Au­gust for his de­layed and muted re­sponse to what po­lice said was a de­lib­er­ate car-ram­ming into a group of peo­ple en­gaged in a coun­ter­protest against a white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. Ne­tanyahu said noth­ing af­ter Trump reignited con­tro­versy when he blamed both sides for the vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville.

One of the min­is­ters clos­est to Ne­tanyahu, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ay­oub Kara (Likud), out­raged US Jews when he told The Jerusalem Post at the time that Is­rael must con­demn Nazis but re­la­tions with Trump are more im­por­tant.

“Due to the ter­rific re­la­tions with the US, we need to put the dec­la­ra­tions about the Nazis in the proper pro­por­tion,” Kara said. “We need to con­demn an­tisemitism and any trace of Nazism, and I will do what I can as a min­is­ter to stop its spread. But Trump is the best US leader Is­rael has ever had. His re­la­tions with the prime min­is­ter of Is­rael are won­der­ful, and af­ter en­dur­ing the ter­ri­ble years of Obama, Trump is the un­ques­tioned leader of the free world, and we must not ac­cept any­one harm­ing him.”

It has now been two months since Char­lottesville, which marked the peak in of­fi­cial Is­raeli

de­fense of Trump and, con­se­quently, the widest gap be­tween US Jews and Is­rael about the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. In re­cent days, Is­raeli lead­ers, in­clud­ing se­nior fig­ures in Ne­tanyahu’s Likud Party, have started sound­ing very dif­fer­ent.

Jerusalem Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ze’ev Elkin opened the flood­gates by crit­i­ciz­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of con­struc­tion in Judea and Sa­maria, ef­forts to restart peace talks with the Pales­tini­ans, and Trump’s say­ing Sun­day that he wanted to try to make peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans be­fore mov­ing the em­bassy.

Elkin told the Post that since his crit­i­cism of the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent be­came no­ticed, it has only helped him out po­lit­i­cally. He re­ceived praise from count­less Likud ac­tivists at Sun­day’s sukka party of Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz, which drew some 2,000 Likud­niks.

“I am not ex­press­ing the view of the prime min­is­ter, but I can’t hold back my per­sonal view of what I see: pres­sure against build­ing in Judea and Sa­maria, se­ri­ous talk about a peace process, and not mov­ing the em­bassy,” Elkin said. “It’s, of course, still bet­ter than un­der Obama, but on other for­eign pol­icy is­sues, Trump changed his coun­try’s poli­cies 180 de­grees, and with us he un­for­tu­nately hasn’t.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Elkin re­vealed that he has re­ceived no scold­ing from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice for his crit­i­cism of Trump, nor have min­is­ters re­ceived guidelines to watch their words, as they have in past pe­ri­ods of big de­ci­sions be­ing made in Wash­ing­ton.

Trump must make a de­ci­sion next week about de­cer­ti­fy­ing the Iran nu­clear deal which Ne­tanyahu and Likud lead­ers love to hate. Even on that most sen­si­tive of is­sues, Elkin said he felt free to speak his mind.

“The idea that Is­rael must pay a price in not build­ing so Amer­ica will give Is­rael what it wants on Iran, which was called Yitzhar for Bushehr, was proven wrong un­der Obama,” Elkin said. “Stop­ping Iran is an Amer­i­can in­ter­est, so it shouldn’t be con­di­tioned. Obama did what he wanted to do on both is­sues, no mat­ter what we did, and Trump will do what­ever he thinks is right for the US, re­gard­less of whether we build in one place or an­other.”

Other top Likud fig­ures, in­clud­ing Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Ho­tovely, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and former min­is­ter Gideon Sa’ar have fol­lowed in Elkin’s foot­steps and crit­i­cized Trump.

“Trump promised to move the Amer­i­can Em­bassy to Jerusalem, and he didn’t prom­ise it to us but to his vot­ers, who know what is writ­ten in the Bi­ble and know they have an obli­ga­tion to strengthen the Jewish na­tion, which has re­turned to its home­land af­ter so many years,” Sa’ar told mem­bers of par­lia­ment from around the world in Jerusalem.

Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion Min­is­ter Tzachi Hanegbi, one of the more mod­er­ate min­is­ters in Ne­tanyahu’s cabi­net, down­played the ap­par­ent change on Trump among se­nior Likud fig­ures.

“There is no rea­son to at­tack Trump, be­cause any­one who had re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions about him isn’t dis­ap­pointed,” Hanegbi said. “We should just be happy that we can build with­out be­ing scolded, that Trump’s tone on Iran is en­cour­ag­ing, and that at the re­cent con­fer­ence of Pales­tinian donor states, Amer­ica went from push­ing two states to merely ad­vo­cat­ing non­po­lit­i­cal eco­nomic steps.”

Hanegbi noted that in his lengthy for­eign pol­icy ad­dress at the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly last month, Trump did not men­tion the Pales­tini­ans at all.

But event Hanegbi mocked Trump’s state­ment about want­ing to make Mid­dle East peace be­fore mov­ing the em­bassy.

“It will take at least a month to make peace,” Hanegbi said, in a joke he might have been more care­ful about mak­ing a few months ago.

If the trend of the taboo of crit­i­ciz­ing Trump be­ing lifted con­tin­ues, Is­raelis and Amer­i­can Jews will start sound­ing more sim­i­lar again. And per­haps bridg­ing the gap be­tween them would not re­quire the su­per­hu­man pow­ers of Won­der Woman.

But if not, there will al­ways be hum­mus.

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump an­swers ques­tions on Au­gust 15 about his re­sponse to the vi­o­lence, in­juries and deaths at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, in the lobby of Trump Tower in Man­hat­tan.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump meets with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in New York last month.

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