Trump’s Foreign Policy: The Conservatives’ Report Card

Yes, Machiavelli did say it was better to be feared than loved. But the great Florentine also said, “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.”

Much of this is self-inflicted. Trump didn’t need to start his presidency by

  1. infuriating the president of Mexico on the eve of a planned visit to Washington, or by
  2. comparing the American intelligence community to Nazi Germany,
  3. or by throwing a tantrum with the prime minister of Australia.
  4. He didn’t need to demand that Seoul pay for missile defenses that would protect American troops in the event of war with North Korea,
  5. or toy with our NATO allies as he mulled whether to reaffirm our mutual-defense obligations.

Trump could have avoided all of this. He didn’t, either because his personality is defective or because he thinks humiliation is an appropriate tool of presidential power. Character is destiny, conservatives used to think. We are living this destiny.

..  In Hamburg this month, Trump again showed how eager he was to oblige his man-crush in the Kremlin, this time at the expense of Israel.

But the deeper flaw of Trump’s foreign policy isn’t psychological. It’s philosophical

.. “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,” McMaster and Gary Cohn

.. Mark this as the shift from internationalism to transactionalism; from a values-based foreign policy rooted in Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of “self-interest, rightly understood” to an approach that might be called neo-Maguirism, after “Jerry Maguire.” To wit: “Show me the money!”

It’s not that the administration has done everything wrong, at least by conservative lights: It’s always possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

.. But if serious conservatives believe in anything, it’s that we really are, as Lincoln said, “the last best hope of earth,” and that our foreign policy should be equal to that hope.

I’m an American rabbi. Israel no longer recognizes my religious authority.

“And so everything in this world depends on the mitzvos we do,” he was saying, using the Yiddish pronunciation of “mitzvot,” the Hebrew word for “religious commandments.” “There are no exceptions. You do the mitzvos, and your life will be well and the world will have peace, and we will bring on — God willing — the messiah. But if the Jewish people aren’t doing their mitzvos, this brings on calamity upon our people.”

.. “Wait a minute,” another kid chimed in. “What about the Holocaust? Are you saying the Holocaust . . .”

“I am absolutely saying the Holocaust!” the bearded man interrupted. “Everything you learned about the Holocaust is wrong. The Nazis were nothing but an instrument of Hashem [God]! Hashem brought the Holocaust on the Jewish people, and do you know why? It’s because the Jews of Europe fell away from a life of piety. They were abandoning their kashrus, they were desecrating the Sabbath!”

..  The blacklist really encompasses all rabbis who don’t subscribe to the narrow worldview of the Rabbanut, which holds that the only valid form of Judaism is one that adheres solely to the strictest interpretations of Jewish law and the most traditionalist social values.

..  grieve for the way those authorities undermine Jewish unity in the interest of their political power.

.. Israel has no separation of synagogue and state, and since 1948, ultra-Orthodox Jews have had the sole authority over personal-status issues in Israeli law. Moreover, ultra-Orthodox groups wield considerable power in the Israeli parliament and exert great influence over legislation. This lethal mixture of politics and religion is tearing apart the Jewish world through this list and similar exclusionary tactics

 

Israel to American Jews: You Just Don’t Matter

To the casual observer, Israel has never looked more secure and prosperous. Its Arab neighbors are in disarray. Iran’s nuclear program has been mothballed for a while. The Trump team could not be friendlier and the Palestinians could not be weaker. All’s quiet on the Tel Aviv front. …

Look again. In fact, the foundations of Israel’s long-term national security are cracking.

.. Israel is overstretching itself by simultaneously erasing the line between itself and the Palestinians — essentially absorbing 2.5 million Palestinians, which could turn Israel into a de facto Jewish-Arab binational state — and drawing a line between itself and the Jewish diaspora, particularly the U.S. Jewish community

.. Netanyahu is setting himself up to be a pivotal figure in Jewish history — the leader who burned the bridges to a two-state solution and to the Jewish diaspora at the same time.

.. I won’t waste much time on Bibi’s deft manipulation of President Trump to shift all the blame onto the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for the absence of progress in the peace process. Bibi masterfully distracted Trump with a shiny object — a video of extreme statements by Abbas (with no mention of extremist actions by Israeli settlers).

“Bibi, you win every debate, but meanwhile every day the separation of Israel from the Palestinians grows less likely, putting Israel on a ‘slippery slope toward apartheid,’ as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently warned. Where is your map? What are you going to do with 420,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank? Where is your imagination for how to reverse this trend that will inevitably lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish democratic state?”

.. About 75 percent of the 10 million diaspora Jews are non-Orthodox, mostly followers of the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism.

.. Netanyahu bowed to the demands of the Orthodox parties and canceled a 2016 agreement to create a distinct egalitarian prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem — the holiest site of the Jewish faith — where men and women of the non-Orthodox movements could pray together. The Orthodox rabbis who control the Western Wall insist that men pray in one area and women in a separate, smaller area.

.. At the same time, Bibi caved and endorsed an Orthodox party bill in the Knesset that handed the ultra-Orthodox what amounts to a monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel “by pulling government recognition for private conversions” — basically those done by non-Orthodox rabbis

.. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed out that Israel’s Orthodox parties and Chief Rabbinate essentially control “all Jewish marriage in Israel, and immigrants who wish to wed there must first prove they are Jewish according to Orthodox law. … The Chief Rabbinate’s antipathy to Reform and Conservative rabbis is well documented.”

.. Netanyahu “just gave the finger to a huge chunk of American Jews

.. After an outcry led by the American pro-Israel lobby Aipac, Bibi negotiated a six-month freeze on putting the conversion legislation in effect. But it is a time bomb.

.. “Does Israel view itself as the nation-state of Israelis or as the nation-state of the entire Jewish people — nearly 60 percent of whom live outside of Israel? Is the purpose of Israel to serve the continuing resilience, prosperity and existence of the Jewish people, as the founders of Zionism envisioned, or just its own well-being?

..Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren  .. the machinations of Bibi and the Orthodox parties constituted an “abandonment of Zionism. The [Western Wall] belongs to the Jewish people as a whole.”

.. “For years the diaspora’s rabbis were not recognized by Israel’s government, but their political support was sought and their congregants’ money was requested. Israeli politicians who voted against the diaspora’s interests in the Israeli Parliament begged for the stage at the Aipac convention in Washington

.. Israelis have long taken for granted the fact that America — the world’s greatest superpower —

  • is a steadfast supporter of Israel in the U.N.,
  • looks the other way on settlements,
  • secures Israel’s technological edge over its enemies through defense systems like the Iron Dome, and
  • just promised Israel $38 billion in security aid over 10 years.

.. Most Israelis, said Grinstein, “are ignorant of the fact that this astonishing reality is the outcome of tireless work by hundreds of thousands of Jews — Democrats and Republicans, most of them non-Orthodox

.. Today, Israel’s very identity is at a crossroad:

  • Runaway Jewish nationalism threatens to meld Israel with the Palestinians in the West Bank, while
  • runaway Orthodox politics threatens to disconnect Israel from its most committed supporters.

Why Is Nikki Haley Still Trump’s UN Ambassador?

It’s unclear whether she is speaking for herself or the White House.

But there are indeed some administration figures who clearly are fomenting endless conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere.

One might reasonably start with Generals James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, both of whom are hardliners on Afghanistan and Iran, but with a significant caveat. Generals are trained and indoctrinated to fight and win wars, not to figure out what comes next. General officers like George Marshall or even Dwight Eisenhower who had a broader vision are extremely rare, so much so that expecting a Mattis or McMaster to do what falls outside their purview is perhaps a bit too much.

.. My own little list of “society’s offenders” consists largely of the self-described gaggle of neoconservative foreign-policy “experts.” Unfortunately, the neocons have proven to be particularly resilient in spite of repeated claims that their end was nigh, most recently after the election of Donald Trump last November. Yet as most of the policies the neocons have historically espoused are indistinguishable from what the White House is currently trying to sell, one might well wake up one morning and imagine that it is 2003 and George W. Bush is still president.

.. Number one on my little list is Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

.. Haley is firmly in the neocon camp, receiving praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media as well as in the opinion pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard. Her speechwriter is Jessica Gavora, who is the wife of the leading neoconservative journalist Jonah Goldberg.

.. As governor of South Carolina, Haley became identified as an unquestioning supporter of Israel. She signed into law a bill to restrict the activities of the nonviolent pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the first legislation of its kind on a state level.

.. In February, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing this past week, she was asked about the decision: “Is it this administration’s position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the UN are mutually exclusive?” Haley responded yes, that the administration is “supporting Israel” by blocking any Palestinian from any senior UN position because Palestine is not recognized by Washington as an independent state

.. Regarding Ukraine, Haley has taken an extreme position that guarantees Russian hostility. In February, she addressed the UN Security Council regarding the Crimean conflict, which she  appears not to understand very well. She warned that sanctions against Russia would not be lifted until Moscow returned control over the peninsula to Kiev.

.. So Haley very much comes across as the neoconservatives’ dream ambassador to the United Nations–full of aggression, a staunch supporter of Israel, and assertive of Washington’s preemptive right to set standards for the rest of the world.

..  Donald Trump really wants to drain the Washington swamp and reduce interference in other nations, he might well continue that program by firing Nikki Haley. He could then appoint someone as UN ambassador who actually believes that the United States has to deal with other countries respectfully, not by constant bullying and threats.