A balanced view of Donald Trump's legacy - opinion

It is the height of ingratitude for American Jews, in their rush to condemn him for the Capitol riot, to discount if not ignore Trump's support of Israel and the Jewish people.

A billboard depicting US president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, with the American flag and the words ‘God Bless You’ was posted along a highway in Tel Aviv last year. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A billboard depicting US president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, with the American flag and the words ‘God Bless You’ was posted along a highway in Tel Aviv last year.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
On January 6, protesters stormed the US Capitol building while expressing anger over voter fraud in the 2020 US presidential election and disrupting the tally of Electoral College votes. Many people in the Capitol were terrified, and five people died (two were killed and three of natural causes). Although the overwhelming preponderance of these protesters were peaceful, there seem to have been some with neo-Nazi leanings. Former US president Donald Trump must shoulder some of the blame for his role in encouraging the protest, though not the violence. His grievances about voter fraud, no matter how justified, had been submitted to courts in America and dismissed. That should have ended the matter.
However, it is the height of ingratitude for American Jews (including community leaders), in their rush to condemn his role in these actions, to discount if not ignore Trump’s extraordinary support of the Jewish people and Israel during his presidency. Let me provide some examples:
1. On December 6, 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the American Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
2. On May 18, 2018, Trump announced that he intended to withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal because it was enabling Iran to build nuclear weapons.
3. On March 25, 2019, the US became the first country outside of Israel to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
4. On November 18, 2019, then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration did not view Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be in violation of international law.
5. On January 28, 2020, Trump unveiled the outline of a peace plan, guaranteeing Israeli control over a unified Jerusalem as its capital, allowing it to keep its settlements intact in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). A tunnel would be built connecting Gaza to the West Bank. The status quo would be preserved with regard to the area which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call al-Aqsa. In addition, Trump proposed $50 billion in economic aid.
6. Over the last few months of 2020, Trump engineered treaties or normalization agreements between Israel and both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – “The Abraham Accords” – (September 15, 2020), with Sudan (October 23, 2020), and with Morocco (December 11, 2020).
7. On January 14, 2021, just six days before his term expired, US officials reported that Trump ordered that the major US military command for the Middle East be expanded to include Israel, in a last-minute reorganization of the American defense structure that pro-Israel groups have long advocated to encourage cooperation against Iran.
8. Finally, back on December 11, 2019, Trump issued an executive order to combat antisemitism in schools and on university and college campuses. In this order, Trump employed Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance to discrimination against Jews.
One would think that an order such as this would draw unanimous support among the Jewish community in America. But it did not. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations came out solidly in favor of the initiative, as did the Anti-Defamation League, the Republican Jewish Coalition and The American Jewish Committee. However, it was opposed by J Street and The Jewish Democratic Council of America and criticized by many newspapers, including the editorial staff of The Washington Post.
It is this reaction that provides a portal into the sick soul of so many in the American Jewish community. Trump’s order recognizes us Jews as a people rather than simply Americans of the Jewish faith, the latter identity too often serving as a face-saving portal of American Jews out of the Jewish people.
What is so historically so important in Trump’s order is its rejection of the Napoleonic bargain first enunciated by Stanislas Marie Adelaide, the Comte de Clermont-Tonnere, who in his speech to the French General Assembly on December 23, 1789, regarding “Religious Minorities and Questionable Professions” stated the now famous doctrine: “Deny everything to the Jews as a nation and deny nothing to them as individuals.” In other words, Jewish peoplehood was denied, and Jews were to be transformed from a “nation within a nation” to “individual citizens of the French state.”
Napoleon advocated this solution, as have so many assimilationist Jews in America; but Trump trumped them, if we may use the expression. He recognized Jews in America as members of the Jewish people, not simply Americans of the Jewish faith. ■
The writer is professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. He is a fellow in the American Psychological Association and has been a Fulbright fellow at Tel Aviv University. He has published about 100 referred articles and almost 20 books and lectured worldwide, primarily in the emerging field of biblical psychotherapy, suicide prevention and schizophrenia, and on Jewish identity in both Israel and the Diaspora