The criticism of White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley made it clear that some American Jews have forgotten the words of the late Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. In his famous essay, “The Iron Wall,” Jabotinsky wrote, “It is incredible what political simpletons Jews are. They shut their eyes to one of the most elementary rules of life that you must not ‘meet halfway’ those who do not want to meet you.”
Aboard Air Force One with President Trump last Tuesday, Gidley held a press gaggle. The subject of America’s relationship with Israel came up:
Reporter: “What evidence are you referring to when you say the U.S. is more beloved around the world?”
Gidley: “You’ve seen the relationship with Israel that is greatly enhanced because of this president. It’s the only democracy in the region, and it was virtually thought of to be an enemy of the American people in the last administration. … Under the Barack Obama administration … they almost viewed them as an enemy, it seemed like, in some ways with the way he treated Netanyahu. And so, this president came in and changed the relationship.”
Some Jews in politics criticized Gidley’s statement. Tamara Cofman Wittes, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs in Hillary Clinton’s State Departmen, claims he was lying. “This is a preposterous distortion of the facts, as stated clearly and on multiple occasions by both the Israeli and American leadership throughout the period in question,” she said. “Distorting and denigrating the long record of US-Israel partnership is not an act of friendship.”
During Wittes’s tenure, Israel became the Obama administration’s whipping boy.
“From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran. Such policies would have put him at odds with any Israeli leader,” former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren revealed in his book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.
But Obama posed an even deeper challenge by abandoning two core principles of alliance.
“The first principle was ‘no daylight.’ The U.S. and Israel always could disagree but never openly. Doing so would encourage common enemies and render Israel vulnerable,” Oren wrote. “The other core principle was ‘no surprises.’ President Obama discarded it in his first meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, in May 2009, by abruptly demanding a settlement freeze and Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution.
“The following month the president traveled to the Middle East, pointedly skipping Israel and addressing the Muslim world from Cairo.
“Israeli leaders typically received advance copies of significant American policy statements on the Middle East and could submit their comments. But Mr. Obama delivered his Cairo speech, with its unprecedented support for the Palestinians and its recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear power, without consulting Israel.
“Similarly, in May 2011, the president altered 40 years of U.S. policy by endorsing the 1967 lines with land swaps — formerly the Palestinian position — as the basis for peace-making.”
Right after Gimley’s statement, Dennis Ross, who worked for Clinton, Bush, and Obama, urged Israel to “repair its ties to the Democratic Party.”
He told the Jerusalem Post, “Given the strong opposition by Democrats to Trump, Israel risks getting caught up in that conflict,” adding, “There will be a post-Trump U.S., and we’re seeing a huge gap in Democratic and Republican approval of Israel.”
“Israel risks a backlash because the Trump administration has caused such deep alienation among Democrats, so it’s essential that there is outreach by Israel to Democrats on all levels, be it national, state and municipal,” he said. “If you identify with only one party, sooner or later another party might come to power. Historically speaking, Republicans used to be tougher on Israel, so the pendulum swings.”
What is Ross suggesting? Should Israel should allow Palestinian terrorists to kill Israeli civilians? Should it demonize Jews, as DNC Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison has? Perhaps it should use anti-Semites as advisors, as Obama used Al Sharpton?
During the selling of the Iran deal, it was Obama himself who suggested that Jews pushed America into the Iraq war. William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, quoted Obama in a meeting with Jewish leaders on the deal. Daroff tweeted, “Jews are leading effort to kill #Irandeal. ‘Same people opposing the deal led us into Iraq war’,” adding, “Canard: Jews got us into Iraq War.”
Ross is correct that Israel and American Jews shouldn’t deliberately damage relations with the Democratic Party. But neither should they reward anti-Israel policies. They also shouldn’t try to make Republican platforms less pro-Israel, as AIPAC did in 2012. What we need to do is make Democrats and Republicans fight for our votes.
Candidates’ positions are influenced by their voters. Progressives have become a critical voting bloc in the Democratic Party. On the Republican side, many GOP candidates are pro-Israel to win the evangelical vote. But if the evangelical base ever loses influence, unless Jewish issues become genuinely bipartisan, neither party will care. There is only one way to avoid that.
First of all, Jews need to start voting for the other guys — not blindly, but looking at Republican candidates with an open mind.
The other thing the Jewish community has to do is stop donating to groups whose leadership blindly support progressive politics. There are plenty of Jewish charities to give money to besides the blatantly political ADL, Jewish Federation, American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, and other organizations that use donations to fund Democratic Party policies.
Only by shifting the Jewish vote and moving our money away from Democratic organizations masked as Jewish ones will we be able to make both parties fight for our support by backing Israel and other issues relevant to the Jewish community.