Trump is not good for Israel

June 7, 2019

Each week, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) is energizing and mobilizing the Jewish electorate in support of candidates and elected officials who share our values. We are advocating for policies consistent with our values, including support of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We know that Jewish voters are overwhelmingly pro-Israel, despite the fact that Jews are voting predominantly on domestic policy issues. For more information on the Jewish vote, please check out our FAQs about the Jewish vote and share with others.

Jewish voters are voting their values, and disapprove of Trump’s handling of nearly every issue. According to a non-partisan poll of 1,000 Jewish voters commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) in May, Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump’s policies on nearly every issue because they are inconsistent with Jewish values. Case in point: on the issue of immigration, more than 70 percent of Jewish voters oppose every aspect of the Trump administration’s actions, including ongoing efforts to build the wall, discrimination based on religion, or separating families at the border.

But what about foreign policy, and specifically, what about Israel? According to the JEI poll, 68 percent of Jewish voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of foreign policy and about 50 percent disapprove of his handling of a range of issues related to Israel. At the same time, Israel ranked the lowest policy priority – of the 16 presented – among Jewish voters when choosing which candidate to support. While 90 percent of those polled identified as “pro-Israel,” 53 percent identified as both pro-Israel and critical of at least some of the current Israeli government’s policies. Just as one can be a patriot and opposed to the policies of the Trump administration, certainly one can be pro-Israel and be critical of the Netanyahu government.

We think this issue deserves a closer look because President Trump has not been good for Israel. First, he has not been good for America’s credibility and international standing, and Israel – as one of our closest allies – depends on America’s diplomatic strength in the eyes of the world. Trump has also denigrated both America and Israel’s democracies and democratic institutions. Second, Trump has politicized and personalized the U.S.-Israel relationship, framing it as solely about him and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Parties in the majority and leaders in power will come and go in both our countries, and this relationship – which has endured seven decades – must be sustained in the future. For these reasons and more, we affirm that President Trump’s policies are not in America’s interest and are not in Israel’s interest.

Keep reading for more and to hear about JDCA’s response to events in the past week.

Denigrating Israel’s Democracy: Earlier this week, after it became clear that Israel would go to elections in mid-September, President Trump called Israeli politics “messed up” because, according to Trump, having another election is “ridiculous.” He added that Israel should “get their act together,” and made clear he is “not happy” that the Israeli government is complying with its democratic norms and procedures. Trump’s remarks demonstrated his disdain for democracy and Israel’s democratic process in particular. Israel has long been the only democracy in the Middle East, which serves as the foundation of a strong-U.S. relationship. Regardless, Trump appears to have as little regard for Israel’s democracy as he does for our own.

Interfering in Israel’s Democracy: This is not the first time Trump has interfered in Israel’s democratic process. Forty-eight hours before Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline to form a coalition expired, Trump tweeted, “Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever.” Trump’s statements and intervention in Israel’s democratic process were widely criticized both in the United States and in Israel, including by JDCA. As Menachem Begin once reminded Ronald Reagan, Israel is not a banana republic. Israel is democratic country that has every right to select its leaders – and build coalitions – free from Trump’s interference.

Politicizing and Personalizing the U.S.-Israel Relationship: Trump’s statements this past week reinforce something we have long warned about – the politicization and personalization of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Trump and Republicans have increasingly attempted to use Israel as a partisan wedge issue, and we reject it in the strongest possible terms. Trump has also repeatedly framed the relationship about him and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which is dangerous. Leaders will come and go, and this relationship must endure. Using Israel as a means of scoring political points – as Trump and Republicans continue to do – is not in Israel’s interest, it’s dangerous for our future.

Art of the Deal? In the midst’s of Israel’s election process, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was in Israel this past week to discuss the administration’s secretive Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which – according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – is “unexecutable.” This is not surprising, considering Kushner suggested this week that Palestinians aren’t capable of governing themselves, and that Republicans in Congress revealed they no longer support a two-state solution, which has served as the foundation of U.S. policy toward Israel for twenty-five years. Trump is clearly more interested in delivering a “deal” that neither Israelis or Palestinians support than executing a foreign policy consistent with the long-term interest of the United States and Israel.

Regional factors: Trump has continuously taken actions in the Middle East that have put Israel’s national security at risk. This week, it became clear that he’s attempting to maneuver around Congress in order to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, and has even hidden from Congress evidence that Saudi Arabia escalated its ballistic missile program with help from China – a direct threat to Israel’s quantitative military edge. Trump’s announcement in December of a withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria threatened to create a power vacuum on Israel’s border, and give Iran a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean. Trump even signaled to the world that he values Russia above Israel when he handed Russian officials Israeli intelligence related to Israel. This is not only a betrayal of America’s interests and intelligence, but also of Israel’s.

Trump is not good for Israel. Nor is he good for America or Jewish Americans. His reckless foreign policy abroad and fomenting of anti-Semitism at home is an affront to our values. Ultimately, it’s up to Israelis whether they want to change their government, just as it’s up to Americans whether we want to change ours. We are ready for change, and JDCA can play a pivotal role in bringing about change consistent with our values, but we need your support. The stakes have never been higher, so please join our movement today as we prepare to bring about meaningful change in 2020.

JDCA Speaking Out

  • JDCA Chairman Ron Klein and Executive Director Halie Soifer met with 24 Senate Democrats and other Jewish leaders to discuss Israel, anti-Semitism and social justice issues.
  • Halie debated her Republican counterpart at the AJC Global Forum to discuss why the Democratic Party will remain the political home of American Jews.
  • Halie was featured in the Times of Israel and profiled as, “the woman who hopes to mobilize the Jewish electorate to defeat Trump.”
  • In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Ron offered a clear-eyed perspective on the reality of strong Democratic support for Israel.
  • JDCA urged the California Democratic Party to reject anti-Israel and anti-Semitic resolutions and applauded them for doing so.
  • JDCA joined with other Jewish organizations in condemning the banning of Stars of David at the upcoming DC Dyke March, and expressed support for the LGBTQ community, including those who wish to march displaying Pride flags with the Star of David. More on the DC Dyke march, which will take place TODAY at 5pm, can be found here.

These are just a fraction of our activities. Every week brings challenges, and every week, we meet them. Stay informed in real-time by following JDCA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so that you don’t miss anything, including briefing calls and events.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Ron Klein
Chair, Jewish Democratic Council of America

Halie Soifer
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America