27 December 2016
Trump the Zionist
Part of Donald Trump's appeal for some voters was his apparent willingness to rethink the United States' foreign commitments. While for some that looked alarmingly like an abandonment of the country's moral duty to protect free peoples from authoritarian threats, to many Americans it was a refreshing questioning of costly, seemingly unrewarding obligations. Some were inspired by the thought that Trump would put American interests before any ideology, left or right. We know now that there will be one great exception to his critical thinking. With unprecedented vehemence, the President-elect has condemned actions by the outgoing President, specifically the Obama administration's determination that the U.S. should abstain from a United Nations resolution condemning the continued construction by Israel of settlements inside the territories occupied after the 1967 war. Trump will most likely prove the most pro-Israel President we've seen in decades, less critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing government than even recent Republican administrations, and I suspect we won't be hearing from him about Israel having to pay more for its defense and so on. Why should this be? Perhaps he imagines Israel to be a front-line state in the struggle with Islamic extremism, even though the Jewish state is ironically shielded from attack by the self-styled Islamic State by its longtime Syrian enemy. Trump can't be doing this because he needs Sheldon Adelson's money, though for all I know he may still covet it. It's most likely that despite his promise of out-of-the-box thinking Trump simply doesn't question the premise that support for Israel is a moral imperative that should be pursued regardless of all consequences and costs for the U.S. And while there's evidence that some of his supporters are disappointed by his stand on this subject, some of them are probably on the "deplorable" fringe he can readily do without. The majority of Trump's fans probably share his Zionist bias, and probably feel it more strongly than ever out of hostility to Islam. They probably reconcile his Zionism with their presumed "America First" principles on the common assumption that Israel is a literal ally of the U.S. -- though that may not matter so much when it comes to our actual literal allies in NATO -- and that Israel helps us in some way in the Middle East. But those who take this "America First" thing a little more seriously (or is that literally?) might want the President-elect to explain whether his commitment to Israel is unconditional or not, and if not, to explain when he might think Israel's interests might conflict with those of the people who elected him and the country he will swear to serve.