Woe is us

Two things for sure: It turns out I had not seen it all. And I will not again make fun of Israeli politics or the Israeli political system. Woe is us. But it ends well.

By
October 20, 2016 20:45
4 minute read.
Trump and Clinton

Trump and Clinton. (photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP)

Ridiculous and immodest as it sounds, I’ve served on the national staffs of nine US presidential campaigns and volunteered on seven others since I was my local Arizona congressman Mo Udall’s national youth coordinator in 1976, when I was 19.

(He lost the Democratic primaries – and the nomination – to an equally little-known southern governor named Jimmy Carter.) I had thought I’d seen a lot and knew a lot about presidential campaign politics in the 40 years since – hell, they let me teach graduate school for several years at Johns Hopkins University – but this election has been like no other I’ve seen or studied.

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I’ve known from the start who my choice was for president. Hillary Clinton is arguably the most qualified person ever to have run for the office, having not already previously served in it. Meanwhile, her opponent Donald Trump is perhaps the least fit person to have ever led his storied party’s ticket.

Hillary was an activist, lawyer, law professor, first lady of Arkansas and then the United States, a US senator, secretary of state. I’ve known her since my dog and I moved to Little Rock in 1992 so I could work on the first of what would be four Clinton presidential campaigns for me.

She cares about the issues I care about. Healthcare, women’s rights, LGBT rights, jobs and wages, the economy, tax reform, debt-free college, campaign finance reform, climate change, racial justice, disability rights, gun-violence prevention, immigration reform and early childhood education. And internationally, combating terrorism, tough Iran sanctions, and most of all, a safe and secure Israel.

Hillary speaks often about the unshakable bonds between the US and Israel, denouncing Palestinian incitement many times throughout the years. As senator and as secretary of state, she routinely condemned rocket fire into Israel, working with Israel to develop better tunnel detection technology in order to prevent arms smuggling and to increase support for Israel’s rocket defense system, upgrading Patriot missiles and the Iron Dome system. She brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, saving countless Israeli and Arab lives.

Hillary helped to equip Israel with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and pledged to increase intelligence sharing.

Regionally, she sponsored a Senate resolution calling for the Magen David Adom’s inclusion in the International Red Cross, fought for bills to combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and criticized the UN Human Rights Council for its “structural bias against Israel.” She condemned the unfair Goldstone Report, and opposed anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and in other international bodies.

Hillary was key in persuading the United Nations to agree to tough sanctions on Iran and she has unequivocally pledged to hold Iran to the very highest standards to ensure it does not violate the nuclear agreement signed last year. She has vowed to “vigorously enforce the deal,” saying her approach “will be to distrust and verify.”

She has decried anti-Semitism in all its forms, and has condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as an attempt to “isolate and delegitimize Israel” and as “counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians.”

Her relationship with Israel extends back to her days as first lady of Arkansas, when she brought to that state Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, an educational program developed in Israel. Her ties to Israel have continued for 30 years.

Contrast Hillary Clinton’s proven support for Israel with her opponent’s lack of clear, never mind trustworthy, policy on Israel – or of any kind of clear, trustworthy foreign policy. Donald Trump says he will be “neutral” on Israel. He questions Israel’s commitment to peace and says he’ll make Israel pay for American aid.

He’s never invested in Israel. He brags about all his property deals and has them in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates, but nothing in Israel. He doesn’t even visit.

Trump trades in Jewish tropes and stereotypes; he appeals to racists and the alt-right, and his “America First” platform would lead to an isolationist and nativist America that abandons its allies, including Israel.

He routinely re-tweets anti-Semites and has become the hero of white supremacists, generating the repeated condemnation of the devoutly nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League.

Shimon Peres z”l, the former president and prime minister of Israel, said shortly before his death, such an America First policy of Trump’s would be a “very great mistake.”

Peres was among a growing list of Israelis and Republicans who saw that a Trump presidency would be dangerous. Bill Kristol, a neoconservative, ardent Zionist and editor of The Weekly Standard, said a Trump presidency would weaken America, which “is not good for Israel.”

Fifty Republican security experts signed a letter stating that Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history,” and has demonstrated that “he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which US foreign policy must be based.”

Trump has shown a fundamental misunderstanding of Russia and Syria, of Korea and Japan, of NATO, of Ukraine, of the nuclear triad. And of Israel.

When Donald Trump first emerged as the Republican nominee I was bemused. I thought we Democrats had been blessed by a playful God. But then it turned from silly to dark to meshuga – crazy. And now, it is finally almost over.

Two things for sure: It turns out I had not seen it all. And I will not again make fun of Israeli politics or the Israeli political system. Woe is us. But it ends well.

The writer, a former Bill Clinton White House aide, is a founder of Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary and of Jews for Progress, a Hillary Clinton super PAC.


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