From Trump to Abraham

This lessons of the Trump victory, and its parallel in successive Israeli elections, should be clear.

November 26, 2016 20:40
3 minute read.

President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka attend a campaign event in Washington, DC, in October. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Much of the Israeli media focus in recent weeks (and months) has been the US presidential elections and the subsequent election of Donald Trump. While fixated on the circus- like atmosphere surrounding the campaigns, the long-term reason for Trump’s ascent was not properly analyzed.

While Hillary Clinton blamed her defeat on the FBI, which raised the issue of Clinton’s email scandal just days before the election, other experts pointed toward the widespread disgust the American people have for the establishment. In this view, the Trump ticket was more of a protest vote than anything else.

While there are elements of truth to both those assumptions, the underlying macro-analysis is completely missing.

While no one would mistake Trump for Thomas Jefferson, George Washington or other Founding Fathers, it was a return to the founding ideals and principles of the United States that the electorate yearned for. Eight years of Barak Obama appear to have led many Americans to question the very essence of what the US is about, and the direction that the country has taken.

Here in Israel, a similar undercurrent has taken hold.

For years, we were sold false messiahs and dreams turned to nightmares. From a new Middle East to the Singapore of the Mediterranean, the Israeli electorate was told that with a little more effort, Islamic extremism would magically disappear. Too many years and too many lives later, the past few elections reflected the shift toward an eyes-wide-open perspective on security. “It’s not the settlements, stupid” has won out.

Interestingly, a similar shift has also taken place on a spiritual and traditional level. We were told that the Jewish values upon which Israel was built are no longer relevant, or belong to one side of the political spectrum only. Politicians did (and continue to do) their utmost to take ownership over the values which underpin our very existence as this unique entity that is a Jewish and democratic state. So we are led to believe that Israel, like the US, is in some binary struggle. However, if we look around today, the prognosticators of post-traditionalism and post-Zionism have become few and far between.

In fact, those Jewish values of mutual responsibility, sanctity of life, love of the land and the cherishing of those universal freedoms which emanate from the Bible are infused throughout our society. While Tel Aviv’s nightlife remains the envy of most European cities, those same partygoers are connecting with their heritage and culture in ways that make (those few remaining) Haaretz readers squirm. In fact, the Jewish flame at the core of our nation-state is burning bright.

In what has become an annual ritual, this past Shabbat I joined tens of thousands of Jews from all over Israel and the world that descended on Hebron for the Torah reading of Chayei Sara. Jews of all ages and religious background made the trip to celebrate our connection to the land, our heritage and our future here. In a world where false narratives are hurled at Israel, at Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and of course at certain individuals, this past Shabbat the focus of the Jewish people was on truth; the very values we received from our forefathers and mothers that have kept our nation together from time immemorial.

This lessons of the Trump victory, and its parallel in successive Israeli elections, should be clear: a national yearning for a return to our roots may not be a popular campaign slogan, but the underlying truth is undeniable.

The author is a political consultant and the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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