By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Robert Fulford is known in Canada as a distinguished journalist and public intellectual of note. He has warm personal ties to the Jewish community and is a great supporter of the State of Israel. His latest column in the National Post has the title, “Israel always seems to be running short of friends – but Trump is not the ally it needs.”
He concludes it with a telling quote by Bernard Henry Levy, the French public intellectual and philosopher who has just published a much reviewed book on Judaism: “May the recipients of Trump’s sudden solicitude be as wary of this new friend as they are of their enemies. May they never forget that Israel’s fate is too serious a matter to be used as a pretext for an impulsive, uncultured adventurer to demonstrate his authority or supposed deal-making talents.”
Judging by the way the government of Israel is currently behaving, it doesn’t seem to be prepared to heed the warning of friends and committed supporters. Instead, it sees the election of Donald Trump as as a licence to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and probably soon retroactively legalize those allegedly built on private Palestinian land. At the same time it appears to run rough-shod over Palestinians in the territories and Israeli Arabs at home.
Whereas during the Obama administration the government of Israel felt restrained – often seeing the then US president as a foe – its currently openly aggressive acts reflect the belief that Uncle Donald will endorse the expansionist moves. Opposition by other countries is described as evidence of anti-Semitism and internal Israeli criticism is labelled subversive and – worse still – left-wing.
In their nationalist zeal members of Israel’s government appear to have chosen to ignore the fact that President Trump is saying more than one thing at any given time. Though they think now that he’ supports them, he may declare the opposite without warning. That’s how Fulford puts it: “Judging by his speeches, his opinions and intentions can change without notice. He can hold two sharply contrary views on the same day, sometimes even during the same speech.”
On February 3 the Toronto Star listed 33 instances of “bald-faced lies, exaggerations and deceptions” uttered by the president of the United States since his inauguration some two weeks earlier. President Trump may afford to take risks by saying outrageous things and letting his spokesman modify them or contradict them, but Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot afford to act in similar fashion.
Yet that’s what he did, for example, when he came out applauding Trump’s determination to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out unwanted immigrants. Netanyahu reminded the world that he has done it in Israel to keep out refugees and others – and that it works. That he thereby fractured the relationship with Mexico and put the Jewish community there at risk didn’t seem to bother him.
As things stand at the moment, Israel may benefit much from good relations with countries like Mexico, apart from the United States under Trump and despite the euphoria with which many here greeted his election. In retrospect, Israelis may even find that America was better for the Jewish state under Obama – whom many came to loathe – than the United States under Trump whom a surprising number of Jews love.
Jerusalem 4,2,17 (Motza’ei Shabbat)