Washington Watch: Donald, melech Yisrael

Trump regularly retweets conspiracy theories and many other cockamamie ideas, which he claims he’s just innocently passing on. That won’t wash. You retweet it, you own it.

U.S. President Donald Trump visiting the Western Wall in 2017   (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump visiting the Western Wall in 2017
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
When US President Donald Trump questions the loyalty of American Jews, he’s not just talking about whether they are more loyal to Israel than the United States; he’s upset that they fail to show him the appreciation and loyalty he feels he personally deserves for all he has done for Israel.
And to show that fealty, he expects them to make him their Moses and follow him in a mass exodus to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party.
More than Moses, actually. The messiah, judging by his tweets and talk.
Trump regularly retweets conspiracy theories and many other cockamamie ideas, which he claims he’s just innocently passing on. That won’t wash. You retweet it, you own it.
He recently retweeted comments by Wayne Allen Root, a right-wing writer, conspiracy theorist and Messianic Jew, who called Trump “the greatest president for the Jews and for Israel in the history of the world” and said Israelis “love him like he is the King of Israel… [and the] second coming of God.”
When Trump gets heavy flak from some tweets or boasts, like when he referred to himself as “the Chosen One,” he tries to retreat by saying he was just joking. Nothing doing. He’s not one known for having a sense of humor.
The tweet about being the “King of Israel” should upset his wing-man, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose loyalists call him “King Bibi.” Israel is a strong country, but can it handle such enormous and fragile royal egos?
But Trump’s dual loyalty accusations are about more than showing him devotion. Such charges have incited hatred and violence against Jews throughout history. Trump’s words are fueling the rise of white nationalism and antisemitic attacks across the United States, often by professed Trump followers.
The ADL reports that antisemitic hate crimes have been on the rise since Trump came to office.
If anyone ever doubted Trump was an antisemite, just go back over all those comments, tweets, tropes, references to “your prime minister,” campaign postings and his history in real estate. That should clear up any doubts. And having Jewish grandchildren is no more redeeming than Hitler having Jewish ancestors.
Trump has “helped unleash a new wave of antisemitism,” wrote New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. She quoted Sophie Ellman-Golan, an activist working to mobilize Jews against white nationalism, saying, “Only one political party is quite literally inciting white nationalists to shoot up our synagogues.”
Trump may think he can draw Jews away from the Democratic Party by making two Muslim freshman congresswomen the face of the party, but it may be quite the opposite. Interestingly, what they said about Jewish dual loyalty is not much different from what Trump said, just the tone. He may think it is a compliment, and they know it isn’t.
Trump does not comprehend that Jews are not single-issue voters and that Israel is not at the top of their agenda – and it may, in fact, be shrinking as a factor in the political choices they make. Moreover, when it comes to Israel, we Jews have as many diverse views of that country and its policies as we have of our own.
THE BIG mystery is why Republican Jews continue to support a man who praises them for their dual loyalty while denigrating Democrats for not being equally obsequious to an antisemite, racist xenophobe. To be a good Jewish Republican, he is saying, you must be loyal to another country and the bigot in the White House.
In 2018, Jews voted nearly 80% Democrat, five points higher than the previous election. Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein has said evidence suggests Trump is driving more Jews toward the Democratic Party than away.
Goldberg contends Trump’s antisemitism and racism “has spurred a renaissance” in the Jewish Left in America.
And he is helping drive growing numbers of Jews away from Israel, accelerating a trend that keeps Jewish leaders up at night. Most Jewish voters are less enthusiastic about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem or encouraging settlements and annexation of the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank than they are about pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the two-state solution. They are also repulsed by Trump’s embrace of religious and nationalist extremists in both countries.
Trump’s Israel policies are designed to appeal to his broad Evangelical base (and, to a lesser degree, a small group of wealthy Jewish donors). Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – the evangelical lobby with some seven million members – has eclipsed AIPAC in the eyes of the White House because it speaks for the largest portion of Trump’s base. Evangelicals profess to love Israel and love the Jews so much they want to see us disappear in the Second Coming (we Jews are still waiting for the First). The most outrageous part of this ugly episode of dual loyalty charges may be Netanyahu’s silence. His acquiescence only serves to further widen the rift between Israel and American Jews and strikes a damaging blow to the longstanding bipartisan consensus that is the foundation of US-Israel relations. Republicans, for purely partisan reasons, have tried to use Israel as a wedge issue to claim their party loves Israel more than the Democrats – and Bibi has been their most valuable and willing tool.
If members of Congress see that Israel is no longer a high priority for their Jewish constituents, they may begin having second thoughts about sending $3.8 billion a year to shore up a Republican stronghold.
Like no other Israeli leader, Netanyahu has plunged deeply into American partisan politics. Shallow dives by Yitzhak Rabin endorsing Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton endorsing Shimon Peres were nods, not passionate embraces.
Netanyahu has been quick to take offense when he thinks Israel is being criticized unfairly – but Trump, a swaggering bully, has apparently scared him silent. Instead the prime minister grovels before a bigoted president most American Jews consider unfit to lead their country.
Netanyahu is so intensely focused on his own September 17 Israeli election, and his desire to keep his job and stay out of prison, that he doesn’t seem to care about the damage he is doing to American Jewish support. He keeps widening the chasm and tightening his embrace of a president most American Jews vigorously oppose for a multitude of reasons, starting with his antisemitism. If Bibi wins a record fifth term, don’t look for much to change.