Trump’s Hard-Line Israel Position Exports U.S. Culture War Abroad

Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, visits Israel this week, the culmination of his years of support for the country on religious grounds. But the Trump administration’s policies, while lauded by American evangelical groups, are opposed by Palestinian Christians and have been questioned by Pope Francis.

Those policies, in other words, align poorly with either the religious solidarity or foreign policy realism that supposedly animated them, but align perfectly with American identity politics.

Mr. Trump, with his penchant for indulging his nationalist impulses and disregarding foreign policy doctrine, is a perfect vessel for carrying that culture war abroad, with potentially far-reaching consequences.

.. “Israel isn’t an ‘issue’ for evangelicals in the same way that deregulation and a better tax policy are issues,” Robert Nicholson, who leads a Christian advocacy group, said in an email. “It is a matter of identity.”

.. Research by Amnon Cavari, an Israeli political scientist, found that hard-line views on Israel had spread among conservatives only recently, and largely because of partisan polarization over domestic issues. Though conventional wisdom often suggests that evangelical and Jewish groups energized conservative views on Israel, in fact it was the other way around.

.. Being tough on terrorism became a core conservative value that was expressed, in part, as support for Israel — specifically, as support for harsh Israeli policies toward the conflict. This also aligned with increasingly negative attitudes toward Muslims. And an atmosphere of us-versus-them politics equated supporting Israelis with opposing Palestinians.Though George W. Bush, then the president, encouraged both inclusion of Muslims and neutrality on Israel, polarization pulled some conservatives toward a zero-sum view of the conflict, in which maximally opposing Palestinians became a matter of identity.

.. This opened a gap between the identity politics of the Republican base and the policies of its leaders — precisely the sort of gap that Mr. Trump would exploit in his presidential primary bid. As he rose by saying what others would not, he supercharged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s salience to identity issues among what would become his base.

Mr. Trump advocated severe restrictions on legal and illegal immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries whose citizens he said posed a threat. In doing so, the president aligned fear of demographic change with fear of terrorism.

There is no reason that those positions must necessarily line up with support for Israel, but Mr. Trump leveraged culture war passions to try to bring them together.

.. Mr. Trump represents the culmination of a trend that pro-Israel groups resisted for years: the loss of Jewish support. Even as Jews grew more liberal, many supported strongly pro-Israel policies. But as “pro-Israel” becomes synonymous with “conservative Republican,” Jews are drifting away. They oppose moving the embassy by almost 3-to-1.

.. Party politics started this process. In 2015, Republicans invited Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s right-wing prime minister, to address Congress in opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies on Iran. Though intended to turn American Jews and others against Mr. Obama, it had the opposite effect, polarizing them against Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Trump has taken it drastically further. He has indulged hard-core conservative instincts to a degree that, deliberately or not, attracted support from a white nationalist fringe that also tends to be hostile to Jews.

He is moving the idea of being “pro-Israel” even further right, separating it even from the Jewish support that is ostensibly critical to Israel’s long-term survival.

Revoking aid from refugees to punish Palestinian leaders, for instance, aligns with Mr. Trump’s nationalist tendencies to treat foreign populations as monolithic blocs. This, too, has its roots in American culture wars over immigration.

Pressed on False Claims About Muslims, U.S. Ambassador Goes Silent

“Do you now reach the conclusion that you were wrong when you stated that politicians and cars were being burned?” a reporter asked the ambassador, Peter Hoekstra, in his first news conference with Dutch journalists. “Was that a wrong remark, was it false?”

“I issued a statement, I expressed my regrets and my apology for the comments that I made,” the ambassador replied. “And I am not revisiting the issue.”

.. The ambassador repeated that he did not want to revisit the remarks and that he had expressed his regrets. He then stopped replying, looking silently around the room as journalists continued to question him

.. “Any example of a Dutch politician who is burned in recent years?” one reporter asked.

“This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions,” another said, as Mr. Hoekstra remained silent.

“Please, this is not how it works,” another reporter said.

.. The comments were captured on video, but Mr. Hoekstra denied ever having made them in an interview last month with Wouter Zwart, a reporter with the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur.

.. “I didn’t say that. That is actually an incorrect statement,” Mr. Hoekstra told Mr. Zwart. “Yeah, we would call it fake news.” Shortly after that, in the same interview, Mr. Hoekstra denied having used the term “fake news.”

The Consequences of Trump Being Trump

Many are unmoved by incidents such as the ill-timed “Pocahontas” crack or even the anti-Muslim retweets, because they see the anger over these incidents as an expression of either political correctness or a desire on the part of the media and the Left to silence worries about Islamist extremism.

.. most in the GOP to treat the president’s faults as an acceptable price to pay for putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, along with the reversal of many Obama policies and victory over ISIS.

.. Nor has he been able to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to establish an aura of competence or a sense that the country is in good hands. To the contrary, the tweets and the gaffes have fed a narrative that Trump is out of control.

.. With each such absurdity, Trump chips away not only at his own stature but also at the ability of his party to unite Republicans or to win independents and centrist Democrats.

.. The assumption that a Trump presidency could consolidate or expand Republican control of Congress — the necessary predicate for any of the policies or changes that conservatives claim to want to implement — is being undermined primarily by Trump, not the criticisms of his opponents. Each episode of Trump behaving poorly and demonstrating bad judgment — such as the tweets that can be interpreted as an embrace of a conflict with all Muslims rather than just Islamists — obscures his achievements and reinforces the image of his administration as a circus.

.. Trump is providing an otherwise leaderless and intellectually bankrupt Democratic party with exactly what it lacked in 2016: the ability to mobilize its base of minorities and educated whites by giving them a reason to turn out in the kind of numbers they failed to do for Hillary Clinton.

.. If Trump continues to be Trump, and there’s no sign he can be reined in, Republicans are bound to pay a price for it.

France’s Weinstein scandal is also about Islam

“It’s not about the victims, nor even about Ramadan as a sexual predator anymore, but about two clashing views on secularism and the place of Islam in the political debate,”

.. Ramadan — the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — has vigorously defended Muslim communal life in ways that have alienated French intellectuals on the political left and right.

.. Ramadan is sometimes seen as attempting to explain — and even condone — the actions of the attackers

.. As he wrote in 2012: “The young people who join extremist groups are clearly suffering from massive deficiencies in religious knowledge, and are often politically gullible (when they are not attempting to salve pangs of conscience by cutting themselves off from a life of delinquency).”

.. French Muslim leaders have attacked what they see as a double standard: intense public outrage over abuses alleged against a prominent Muslim but nothing comparable in other cases, such as the rape allegation against the former presidential hopeful and International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011.

.. “We have Islamized a question of law and ethics, if you will. Instead of focusing on the crimes at hand, the trial of one man has become the trial of the entire Muslim community,”