History will judge the Trump presidency for the damage it caused the U.S., as well as the entire world in general and Israel in particular.
However, Donald Trump has made one highly positive contribution – his policies have prompted a realization that being pro-Israel need not necessarily mean supporting its government’s positions.
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Trump’s enthusiastic support for the current Israeli government’s policies and the generous gifts he bestowed upon it have been unique.
However, his own policies have been severely detrimental to Israel and its standing even before any West Bank annexation – which if implemented, would cause strategic damage to regional stability and Israel’s international legitimacy.
Under Trump, Israel’s most important strategic friend has become far less influential on the international stage and in our region, greatly diminishing its ability to exert influence on our behalf at international institutions and with states important to us.
Trump has made the U.S. irrelevant when it comes to any agreements with the Palestinians – agreements that are critical to Israel’s ability to provide a democratic national home for the Jewish people – by completely ignoring their existence and thereby reducing American sway with the other side in the conflict.
Trump made the U.S. irrelevant in terms of blocking Iran’s nuclear program after unilaterally pulling out of the international JCPOA agreement and dismantling the effective international coalition established by the Obama administration, even as he empowered the fanatic extreme forces within the Islamic Republic.
Trump turned the U.S. into a passive bystander on Syria and on the presence of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias on Israel’s northern border. These days, Russia, Turkey and Iran are the ones deciding issues that are crucial to Israel.
Trump also forced Israel to take a stand in his futile and senseless trade war with China against its own economic interests.
Trump’s preference for the current Jerusalem government, in contrast to his cold shoulder to strategic allies in NATO and Asia, has put Israel into a group of authoritarian and populist leaders and distanced it from the liberal camp that constitutes a majority in the U.S. and Europe.
This closeness has fatally undermined U.S. bipartisan support for Israel and its ties to American Jewry.
For years, the American Jewish establishment sanctified its support for Israeli government positions without judging its policies and without examining whether they conformed to their own values or whether they were good for the Jewish people, the U.S. and even Israel.
The question of “what is good for Israel” is obviously a legitimate argument, but the Trump presidency has made many Jews, who tended to support our government’s policies no matter what, realize that they could be critical of the Israeli government and at the same time committed to the state.
Trump’s Presidency made it clear to them that they can operate within the law against Israeli government policy, just as they can resist the policies of their elected President in their country within the framework of the law.
The symbiotic ties between Netanyahu and Trump actually made many American Jews realize that they do not have to choose between their liberal values and their love of the U.S. and Israel.
Trump’s shocking lack of values – his xenophobia, racism, misogyny and contempt for anyone who does not think like him in the U.S. or the international arena – make clear the extent to which such a distinction is necessary.
For years, the American Jewish establishment supported Israeli government policy even though most American Jews are liberals and large numbers are even progressives, and although the values and policies of Israel’s government often run counter to their own.
They continued to support governments that viewed them as second-class Jews if they were not Orthodox and regarded their support for the two-state solution as a sign of defeatism or even Jewish self-loathing.
For years, this position of the American Jewish establishment deterred successive U.S. administrations from adopting a proactive approach to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, because Jewish organizations exerted pressure to ensure that every U.S. step was coordinated with the Likud government that opposed any agreement the Palestinians might have accepted.
The positions we are starting to hear from the Democratic Party stir up hope that the U.S. will revert to being a true friend of Israel, restoring its standing in the world and the region by virtue of its diplomatic skills and its policies.
This friend would be a significant player vis-à-vis our enemies and a significant player who could help us end the status quo with the Palestinians that threatens the future of the Zionist vision.
For me, that is the true pro-Israel position.
Nadav Tamir is a Member of the Board at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies; a former Israeli diplomat and policy advisor to President Shimon Peres