How Trump Turned GOP Jews O­ Is­rael

Forward Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Batya Un­gar-Sar­gon

Arabbi at a typ­i­cal Con­ser­va­tive syn­a­gogue in a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can sub­urb in the New York area re­cently told me an en­light­en­ing story. He got the job about a year ago, com­ing to the United States from Is­rael, and in his first Shab­bat ser­mon he waxed po­etic about the im­por­tance of Is­rael to the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity.

The con­gre­ga­tion loved it. One by one, they con­grat­u­lated him on his fine ser­mon over Kid­dush.

The fol­low­ing week, he thought to build on that suc­cess, and in­stead of speak­ing about Is­rael, he de­cided he’d speak about the most pro-Is­rael Amer­i­can he knew: Don­ald Trump. He stepped up to the pul­pit and launched into ‹Œ min­utes of praise for the great­est friend to Is­rael the United States had ever pro­duced.

When he fin­ished, there was stunned si­lence. The con­gre­ga­tion was fu­ri­ous, and for a few days after, the rabbi was cer­tain he would lose his post.

But he was also shocked, and very con­fused. He told me he sim­ply could not un­der­stand how you could be proIs­rael but not pro-Trump.

Pres­i­dent Trump has been so good to Is­rael, he rea­soned. He moved the em­bassy to Jerusalem, flout­ing gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­can anti-Is­rael cow­ardice! He with­drew from the Iran nu­clear deal! There’s zero pres­sure not to build set­tle­ments! Trump and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu are locked in a bro­mance for the ages! Trump is more pop­u­lar in Is­rael than he is in the U.S.!

These things are all true. And yet, far from pleas­ing the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity, the age of Trump has pro­duced great pathos in­stead. Thanks to their ex­treme dis­taste for Trump, Amer­i­can Jews are not able to en­joy the fruits of his labors.

Their an­tipa­thy for their pres­i­dent has made the friend of their friend their en­emy.

It’s been well es­tab­lished that the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews have no love lost for Trump. Hil­lary Clin­ton got ‘‹% of the Jew­ish vote, while Trump got just “”%.

As with the U.S. pop­u­la­tion over­all, Jews who voted for Trump re­ally like him, while those who voted against him re­ally, re­ally don’t.

To the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews, three-quar­ters of whom have voted Demo­cratic since ‹–—˜, Trump’s an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies cou­pled with his in­sen­si­tive and of­ten racist re­marks have made him anath­ema.

Trump’s close­ness to Ne­tanyahu has like­wise pro­vided fur­ther con­ster­na­tion to lib­eral Amer­i­can Jews, for Trump has en­abled Ne­tanyahu’s ten­dency to­ward il­lib­er­al­ism. Last year, Ne­tanyahu scut­tled a deal that would have al­lowed lib­eral Amer­i­can Jews to hold egal­i­tar­ian ser­vices at the Ko­tel. Trump has also pro­vided fer­tile grounds for in­creased set­tle­ment build­ing; a re­cent “Na­tion State bill” ožended all of Is­rael’s mi­nori­ties as well as many Di­as­pora Jews. Like

For many Amer­i­can Jews, the stain o the pres­i­dent has spread to every­thing he touches.

Trump, Ne­tanyahu finds his sup­port among the Or­tho­dox, and seems to have washed his hands of lib­eral Jews and their con­cerns for free­dom of re­li­gion and demo­cratic val­ues.

But even Or­tho­dox Jews, the ma­jor­ity of whom voted for Trump, did not over­whelm­ingly vote for him. Just a lit­tle more than half of the Or­tho­dox Jews — % — voted for the pres­i­dent. Or­tho­dox Shab­bat meals are prob­a­bly one of the few places left in Amer­ica where pro-Trump and an­tiTrump folks en­gage in po­lit­i­cal de­bate.

For Jews who op­pose Trump, there is a tragedy to his win, not de­spite every­thing he has done for Is­rael but be­cause of it. For these mil­lions of Jews, Trump was not just some­one they didn’t want to see lead — he was some­one they didn’t want to see lead who forged a deep con­nec­tion with Is­rael, the land of their peo­ple.

For many Amer­i­can Jews, the stain of the pres­i­dent, who is oth­er­wise so anath­ema to their val­ues, has spread to every­thing he touches, in­clud­ing things they longed for, like mov­ing the em­bassy to Jerusalem, and ex­it­ing the Iran deal.

And Trump has no­ticed. As Ron Kam­peas re­ported in JTA, the Jew­ish Pub­lic Pol­icy In­sti­tute re­port on the Is­rael-Di­as­pora re­la­tion­ship noted “the grow­ing frus­tra­tion within the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that the pres­i­dent’s pro-Is­rael moves are not suŠciently ap­pre­ci­ated by large seg­ments of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity.” In­deed.

Re­cently, this taint has spread to the donor class. Charles Bronf­man, one of the megadonors be­hind TaglitBirthright Is­rael, and Ron­ald Lauder, an erst­while sup­porter of Ne­tanyahu, wrote scathing op-eds ex­co­ri­at­ing Is­rael’s treat­ment of non-Or­tho­dox Jews and Pales­tini­ans.

And Trump led two more Jew­ish megadonors to switch party aŠli­a­tion: Seth Klar­man, a bil­lion­aire and owner of The Times of Is­rael, and Les Wexner, chair­man and CEO of the par­ent com­pany of Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret and Bath & Body Works.

Both Klar­man and Wexner have con­trib­uted mil­lions to Repub­li­can can­di­dates in re­cent years. No longer. Klar­man es­ti­mates that by the next elec­tion, he will have spent $—˜ mil­lion on Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

Of course, leav­ing the Repub­li­can Party is hardly leav­ing Is­rael. But it does mean that these bil­lion­aires will not be putting their money in what many view as the most pro-Is­rael ad­min­is­tra­tion Amer­ica has seen in gen­er­a­tions. As Kam­peas put it, “Even a hawk­ish pro-Is­rael agenda, they seemed to sig­nal, doesn’t jus­tify the dam­age they feel Trump is do­ing to Amer­ica.”

And in an age when Sen. Bernie San­ders is tak­ing Is­rael to task over Gaza, pre­sump­tive Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez won’t com­mit to a two-state so­lu­tion, and newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib is push­ing for with­draw­ing aid, the Demo­cratic Party is in­creas­ingly will­ing to crit­i­cize the Is­rael gov­ern­ment and hold it to ac­count.

It’s this party that Amer­i­can Jew­ish bil­lion­aires are flock­ing to and bring­ing their money — thanks to Trump.

Klar­man even praised Oca­sio-Cortez in an in­ter­view with The New York Times. “In a lot of ways I’m ac­tu­ally ex­cited about some­body like Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez com­ing along be­cause it’s a way of younger peo­ple and peo­ple of color and peo­ple who are dižer­ent find­ing their voice and be­ing part of the process,” he said.

Of course, Shel­don Adel­son, who is re­ported to have ne­go­ti­ated mov­ing the em­bassy to Jerusalem with a $—˜ mil­lion cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion to Trump, re­mains stead­fast in his sup­port.

But the tally of bil­lion­aires who have aban­doned the Repub­li­can Party, and its un­con­di­tional sup­port for Is­rael, is grow­ing.

Com­men­tary mag­a­zine’s Nor­man Pod­horetz once called Is­rael “the re­li­gion of Amer­i­can Jews.” In houses of wor­ship across the coun­try and among some of Amer­ica’s rich­est Jews, apos­tasy is now in vogue.

And as for the rabbi in that typ­i­cal Con­ser­va­tive syn­a­gogue in that typ­i­cal Amer­i­can sub­urb, he and his con­gre­ga­tion de­cided that preach­ing pol­i­tics was not his man­date, and his spir­i­tual guid­ance has flour­ished ever since.

Batya Un­gar-Sar­gon is the opin­ion

Trump’s close­ness to Ne­tanyahu has pro­vided ur­ther con­ster­na­tion, rather than com ort, to lib­eral Amer­i­can Jews, or Trump has en­abled Ne­tanyahu’s ten­dency to­ward il­lib­er­al­ism.


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