History counters emotion. What is happening now is happening in the context of what happened before. What may seem like a good idea might not be a good idea. Others have had other ideas. Donald Trump needs to know what happened with Israel long ago. The UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, divided Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city administered by the UN, to avoid conflict over its status – and the world has considered it an international city ever since. Israel captured East Jerusalem, with its mosques, from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and said that East Jerusalem was Jerusalem too, and that the whole city was theirs. They set up their government there.
The international community rejected the annexation as illegal and treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. No one recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The city hosts no foreign embassies – but Donald Trump, in late 2017, announced that he would move our embassy to Jerusalem – something no US president has dared to do before. And he did it. The city hosts no foreign embassies, but now it hosts ours, and Donald Trump said the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – even if no one else does. It will be the United States and Israel against the world.
Christian evangelicals love that and they love Trump. That’s where the world ends. Jesus returns, there’s the long-awaited Conversion of the Jews – they finally grow up and become the Christians they were meant to be all along, and everyone gets to go to heaven, except the Jews who refuse to convert, and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, and atheists of course. They’re all going to hell – and Trump will make all of this happen.
But we’ve always been with Israel, sort of. On May 14, 1948, the day before the end of the British Mandate, the Jewish Agency proclaimed independence, naming the country Israel. Clark Clifford, Harry Truman’s legal counsel, had strongly favored recognition. The Jews deserved a sanctuary after the horror of the Holocaust, and this new state was getting created whether Truman like it or not. Secretary of State George Marshall had advised against it, as did most of Truman’s cabinet. Marshall objected to quick US recognition of a Jewish homeland. It would look as if Truman was angling for Jewish votes and might endanger access to Arab oil. Wait a bit. Think a bit more about this. They made their arguments, but now the time was up. The United States recognized Israel – eleven minutes after Israel was created. And no one has been happy since.
That’s the context for this:
President Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy Thursday by endorsing permanent Israeli control of the disputed Golan Heights, saying on Twitter that the area seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war is “of critical strategic and security importance” to Israel.
The position is a political boon to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu days before he is scheduled to visit Washington and three weeks before he faces an unexpectedly difficult reelection vote at home. It also comes as both Democrats and Republicans are seeking to cast themselves as defenders of Israel amid heated congressional discussions about anti-Semitism.
This was just a tweet, but it seems like a new official position and a big deal:
Trump’s statement marks an important symbolic reversal of official U.S. neutrality on an issue that is akin to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which was also seized during the 1967 war and is claimed by Palestinians for a future independent state. It puts the United States at odds with most U.S. allies and the United Nations, which has declared the annexation of the Golan Heights an illegal occupation under international law.
Trump decided to announce the new position despite concerns among some in his administration that it would put a finger on the scale of Netanyahu’s election.
Trump was saying screw the rest of the world, including our allies, and we do want Netanyahu reelected, and what anyone else thinks is not particularly relevant or even very interesting:
For Trump, there is little downside to a full embrace of Netanyahu, despite the Israeli leader’s current political troubles, which include corruption allegations and a potential indictment this summer. Trump’s support for Israel and for Netanyahu personally has played well with his conservative political base, and the latest development comes as Democrats face a generational and ideological split over the nature of American support for Israel.
Let the Democrats stew, because Donald Trump is going to WIN this election:
Both Netanyahu and his main election rival, former Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz, have championed permanent Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a campaign issue. The two are neck-and-neck in the polls ahead of the April 9 election.
Netanyahu has boasted of his strong relationship with Trump and attempted to make it a campaign selling point. Huge roadside billboards in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv show the two leaders shaking hands, with the slogan “Netanyahu, in a different league.”
Netanyahu has a point here, because whatever he asks for from Trump, Trump delivers:
Trump’s statement follows other actions sought by Netanyahu, including the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the U.S. withdrawal from the international nuclear deal with Iran. Trump has also closed the U.S. political office used by the Palestinian Authority and closed a decades-old U.S. diplomatic mission to Palestinians in Jerusalem.
In addition, Trump has agreed to leave 400 U.S. troops in Syria after initially saying he would close down that military mission entirely. The U.S. departure alarmed Israelis and pro-Israel U.S. lawmakers although Netanyahu said he respected Trump’s decision.
This time Netanyahu asked for the Golan Heights. Trump delivered – but Daniel Larison, at The American Conservative, says this is an awful situation:
Israel’s control of this territory dates back to the 1967 war, when Israel grabbed this part of Syria and refused to return it. Israel has no legitimate claim to this territory, and in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over land that it seized during a war the U.S. is sending a potentially very dangerous message to governments all around the world.
Perhaps most dangerous of all is the signal that it sends to Israeli hard-liners that want to annex some or all of the West Bank. It tells them that illegal occupation will eventually be rewarded with full U.S. recognition, and it also tells them that the U.S. isn’t going to pay any attention to international law when it comes to making decisions regarding Israeli control over occupied territories.
Trump, however, is who he is:
Trump’s statement is just the latest in a string of bad decisions that are absurdly biased in favor of Israel. No U.S. interests are advanced by doing this, and it discredits any criticisms that the U.S. wants to make of any other government’s illegal occupation and annexation of territory. The double standard that the U.S. applies when it comes to violations of international law by itself and its clients could not be more obvious, and it will make it much more difficult to challenge similarly egregious violations in the future.
So, Trump’s position is both illegal and absurd, but there’s still a problem here:
Democrats are scrambling to reinforce their party’s support for the U.S.-Israel relationship as accusations of anti-Semitism roil the party and President Trump upends decades of bipartisan consensus by endorsing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing priorities.
In short, Democrats can say they love Israel but Trump gives Bibi anything he wants, with nothing off-limits and with no questions asked, so it’s a standoff:
Two Jewish House Democrats introduced a resolution Thursday that condemns a boycott movement against Israel and reaffirms support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a move to counter the perception that the party is fractured in its support of Israel. The legislation, however, was overshadowed by Trump’s endorsement of permanent Israeli control over the disputed Golan Heights – a pronouncement hailed by Netanyahu, who is seeking reelection next month.
And there was THAT woman:
Longtime Democratic supporters of close U.S.-Israel ties have been forced to regroup after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) suggested Israel’s supporters are motivated by political donations and have “allegiance” to a foreign country, sparking a messy public reckoning over anti-Semitism.
But that’s okay, because calling out Netanyahu isn’t anti-Semitism, even if it has to be done carefully:
Democratic presidential candidates, meanwhile, have shown a new willingness to challenge Israeli government policy under Netanyahu.
Few Democratic leaders believe the party is in danger of seeing a mass defection of Jewish voters – a “Jexodus” some Republicans are calling for, including Trump – but many say they need to redouble their efforts to police anti-Semitic rhetoric and prevent further erosion of support for Israel. Jewish voters typically favor Democrats over Republicans by a remarkably consistent ratio of 2 to 1 or better, according to exit polling dating to 1980.
So here’s the plan now:
That mission is set to play out next week as thousands of politically active Jewish Americans and allies gather at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. The headliners include top-ranking Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), all considered stalwart supporters of Israel.
They will be tasked with countering a narrative of polarization and division that has been developing since at least 2015, when Netanyahu openly challenged President Barack Obama over his decision to pursue nuclear rapprochement with Iran. That narrative only accelerated with Trump’s election and close embrace of Netanyahu and his priorities – canceling the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and, in a tweet Thursday, endorsing Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan.
Can one love Israel and also despise Netanyahu? It’s a test:
The frenzy over Omar’s comments has emboldened Republicans who argue that they are the more ardent supporters of Israel and Jewish interests – even as a new Gallup poll found that only 16 percent of Jewish Americans identified as Republicans last year.
There is bullshit in the air:
Trump this month called the Democratic Party “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” after House leaders broadened a resolution responding to Omar by condemning all forms of hatred. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the House Republican Conference chairwoman, in a fundraising message accused Democrats of “enabling anti-Semitism.” And GOP campaign committees are targeting Democratic incumbents who have shied away from directly rebuking Omar.
There’s also a response to that:
According to lawmakers and congressional aides, as well as activists and strategists, Democratic leaders and others in the party are planning to push back on the narrative at the AIPAC conference, which Netanyahu is slated to attend. Some will emphasize the importance of keeping the U.S.-Israel relationship bipartisan. Others will argue the more significant threat is anti-Semitism on the political right. And some will directly challenge the rhetoric that landed Omar and her defenders in a political firestorm.
And others will just skip the whole thing:
Not appearing at AIPAC – at least at official events – are any 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, with some openly announcing they are skipping the event amid pressure from left-wing activists.
The liberal group MoveOn Political Action urged White House hopefuls to skip the conference, citing the group’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and its close embrace of Netanyahu.
And there’s this guy:
An aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cited concerns “about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.” Sanders, who is of Jewish descent, has been among the prominent Democratic presidential candidates most critical of the Netanyahu government, and he offered some support of Omar amid the firestorm this month.
“She has been critical of the Israeli government, and I think that that is a fair criticism,” he said of Omar in an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire. “I have been very critical of the Israeli government in terms of their treatment of Palestinians.”
Both Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another liberal presidential hopeful, skipped Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to Congress.
So it comes down to this:
“The task for presidential candidates used to be convincing the electorate of their bona fides in being aligned with the Israeli government,” said Ben Rhodes, a former senior foreign policy aide to Obama. “I think now it’s incumbent on Democrats to articulate how they can both be supportive of Israel, in terms of its survival and its security, but also critical of this Israeli government.”
That can’t be THAT hard. Ilhan Omar was suggesting sometimes support for Israel makes no sense.
This isn’t hard. Benjamin Netanyahu can be a jerk. Israel has done some nasty stuff. Sometimes what is in their interest on this or that is not at all in our interest. People should see that, but to criticize Israel is considered anti-Semitic. Somehow that nation is the religion, or maybe that nation is the people as an ethnic group defined by DNA strands and shared history, not exactly the religion itself with its theology and doctrines. Or the nation is neither – it’s just a political entity. Maybe this nation is just a nation, and the nation of Israel can do dumb things.
Can one say that? That’s not an attack on Jews. That’s an attack on a political position. And an attack on Netanyahu, and his Likud Party, is not an attack on all Jews. That’s an attack on a guy who is a bit of a jerk now and then. And now we say he gets the Golan Heights, seized during a war, and we are not going to pay any attention to international law about such things. We may not want to go there. But this is Israel.
Harry Truman should have listened to George Marshall. “Hey boss, let’s stop and think this through!”
No boss ever does that.