I bet some readers saw the title and thought an imposter had written my column this week.
Before addressing the main portion of my column, I would like to thank the 5T and Beyond Biden-Harris 2020 WhatsApp Chat for their support. Although the Queens Jewish Link has “Queens” in the title, its reach is beyond the borough. I wonder if they receive the Queens Jewish Link at the bagel store in the Five Towns.
We do not know why things happen. Abe Fuchs, in his letter to the editor last week, was trying to make sense of why Trump was so irrational in dealing with COVID-19, which ultimately led to his defeat. He concludes that maybe we did not have the merit to have his continued dedication to Israel.
I would like to propose another possible reason: Donald Trump was put into power solely to change the dynamic as it relates to certain aspects of the United States-Israel relationship and Israel’s relationship with Arab countries. He has accomplished his mission, and now it’s someone else’s turn. Those like me who found very few redeeming qualities in Trump and his policies before and after the election must give him recognition for what he accomplished in his dealings with Israel.
Manny Behar and Steve Orlow’s story in last week’s paper about Donald Manes helping the Queens Jewish communities build an eiruv is instructive as to the importance of giving thanks. Manes, who was not Orthodox, had his flaws. He was charged with criminal conduct, which led him to commit suicide; yet, when it came to one issue that was important to the Orthodox community, his power made it happen. It is a merit to his soul which will continue if people use the eiruv he helped build.
There is good reason why Trump was so popular in Israel: Trump was willing to take risks that other administrations were afraid to take. The first risk was moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem. The traditional view was that this was going to be so divisive that it was not worth it. Trump proved the conventional wisdom wrong. The embassy was moved, and the Middle East did not descend into chaos. Other countries have since followed the United States’ lead and moved their embassies to Jerusalem as well.
I believe that the muted reaction to the embassy move led to other moves. Many Arab counties that were dealing with Israel behind the scenes now felt emboldened to publicly enter into agreements with Israel. So far, it has been United Arab Emirates and Bahrain (the Abraham Accords), and soon it may be Saudi Arabia. They have mutual interests in trying to stop Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. These deals have occurred with no pressure on Israel giving in on any demands concerning the Palestinians.
Trump also recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. There was some reaction, but it was muted. Additionally, Israel presumably just assassinated the premier Iranian scientist with little objection outside Iran and its allies.
Having Biden follow Trump is a good fit, since Biden’s team is made up of institutionalists. In other words, they will not make any significant changes to the status quo unless necessary. They are not hung up on changing the government’s polices solely because they were put in place by the prior administration. Trump, at times, was obsessed with changing Obama’s policies just because they were made by Obama.
Biden has already indicated that he has no intention of moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv. Also, those on his team have shown that they are interested in multilateral agreements. Therefore, they will support Israel’s deals with other Arab countries. They also agree that Iran is a danger in the Middle East. The unknown is whether they will return to the Iran nuclear agreement. It is not a done deal, as some fear.
Having a Democratic president who is pro-Israel is important to counteract parts of the Democratic Party where support of Israel seems to be slipping.
Even Rabbi Schonfeld admitted in last week’s paper that “While the political future for Jews in… Israel may not be as fortunate as it was under the current administration, it looks a lot better than the administration before that.”
So thank you, President Trump, for your pro-Israel policies, which hopefully will be continued by the new administration.