Yes, You Can Disagree With Netanyahu and Be Pro-Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Trump on Wednesday. Netanyahu's disgraceful support for Trump's wall with Mexico, which could weaken bipartisan support for Israel, makes it even more important to distinguish between Israel's current leaders and Israel itself and to help others make that distinction. This is a critical moment for pro-Israel advocacy. 

If we can be pro-America and disagree with Donald Trump (or Barack Obama), why can't we be pro-Israel and disagree with Benjamin Netanyahu? Does supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship require us to mute our criticism of only one party to the relationship? Read more in my Times of Israel post, Pro-Israel or Pro-Bibi?

Donald Trump is showing is true colors on Israel and Jews. It took less than one month for Trump to rebuke Israel for settlement announcements, breaking his promise of "no daylight" between the U.S. and Israel. No matter how you interpret Trump's statement, there is no question that he was irked by Israel's announcement of new building, and saying so publicly is daylight.

On Thursday, Trump reiterated his view that "I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace." 

Trump is waffling on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. On Thursday he said that he is "studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens."

He left Israel off a long list of allegedly underreported terrorist attacks, despite complaints from some Americans that terrorist attacks in Israel don't get the publicity they should. Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, said that "I am deeply perplexed as to how the administration put out a statement on terror attacks that haven't been reported without Israel being on that list. It's painful and perplexing - especially on top of the Holocaust gaffe."

Trump omitted Jews from his Holocaust Remembrance statement, the first time any president has failed to mention the Jewish connection to the Shoah. It wasn't a gaffe. It was intentional. Deborah Lipstadt called it "softcore Holocaust denial."

In his Thursday interview, Trump also said that "I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties." How's that for even-handedness and not demanding anything specific from the Palestinians? In the last question of the interview, Trump was lobbed a question that cried out for something specific about the Palestinians, and he still did not name a specific concession that the Palestinians have to make.

And what do we hear from the Republican Jewish Coalition? The mildest of rebukes for leaving Jews out of the Holocaust statement, and complete silence on everything else.

Let's be clear: Aside from omitting Jews from the Holocaust statement, which is utterly inexcusable, nothing Trump did was abnormal. Every administration since Israel's rebirth in 1948 has publicly disagreed with Israel; there has never been "no daylight" between the two countries. Every administration has voiced opposition to Israel's settlement policies. No administration has recognized Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. Other administrations have omitted Israel from one list or another. 

But all of this was true when someone else was president, and we know how our Republican friends would have reacted had President Obama done any of what Trump did during the past three weeks.

Most of our Republican friends genuinely care about Israel, but their muted reaction to Trump helps us see just how abnormal Republican opposition to President Obama's policies on Israel were. Whether you chalk it up to ignorance, racism, partisanship, or a desire to pay less than their fair share of taxes, it is what it is: hypocrisy.

House Republicans blocked a resolution declaring that Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust. Over 100 House Democrats co-sponsored this resolution. Wouldn't you have wanted Congress to approve it? But Republicans blocked it. Only in the Trump era could such a resolution be controversial.

Allison Kaplan Somner makes a great point: When Obama was president, there was at least the possibility that the Jewish community could look to Congress if there was a disagreement with the president. But "the fact that Republicans in Congress will not stand with the Jews on the Holocaust statement should serve as a warning: When a conflict occurs between the Jewish community and the Trump White House, it can't look to Congress for any kind of relief." This means that Netanyahu needs to realize fast that "if his longtime pals in the GOP are forced choose between Israel and their man in the White House, there is little doubt now -- if there ever was -- who [they] will choose."

The end of facts in the Trump era. Maybe some comparisons of Trump to what happened in Germany are over the top. But in a brilliantly written must-read article, Matt Taibbi writes that "If Trump isn't stealing ideas from the Nazis, and it's just a coincidence that he shares so many of their policy instincts, that's not much of a comfort either."

Joel Rubin writes that "the March of the Living taught Jared Kushner and me different lessons."

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