Perspective 48. Trump: Good for Israel?

Donald J. Trump will undoubtedly be ranked by historians as the worst president in U.S. history (see Perspective 41). But wasn't he, at least, good for Israel, and by extension for Jews who care about Israel?

No. At least not for those who hold out hope for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian resolution someday, or for those who believe that Israel has an interest in the welfare of Jewish communities in the United States and elsewhere.

In perspective, Trump's moves favoring Israel -- moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, the highly-touted "Deal of the Century" -- are far outweighed by the damage inflicted on American Jewish interests, on U.S. interests and alliances worldwide, and on prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israelis sometimes find it hard to understand why American Jews, by and large, opposed Trump with such tenacity. But the Jewish community in the United States sensed, quite correctly, just who Trump's bedfellows were. This was the president who said there were "fine people" among the Charlottesville marchers chanting "Jews will not replace us," and who endorsed Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (see Perspective 31).

In this context the short-sighted embrace of Trump by Bibi Netanyahu did grave damage to the tradition of bipartisan support of Israel in Washington. One would never have known that the largest aid package in U.S. history was extended to Israel not by Trump, but by his much-maligned predecessor Barack Obama.

As Gideon Remez recounts in the current issue of The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, even Trump's favorable moves toward Israel were rooted more in his interests in Saudi Arabia (site of his first foreign visit) and the Gulf than in Israel itself. Moving the embassy was apparently a favor to Netanyahu for his acquiescence in arms deals with Arab states. And it turns out that almost no other states followed the U.S. lead in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Dropping out of the Iranian nuclear deal was also no favor to Israel, even though some welcomed it. Iran is now closer to having the critical mass for its first bomb than ever before -- and if the deal cannot be revived, the alternative will be a war with horrifying implications for Israel.

As for the "Deal of the Century," Trump's much-touted peace plan, it was never intended to serve as a basis for serious negotiation. It was a public relations move that put prospects for resolution even further in the deep freeze.

For those in Israel who oppose a two-state solution, Trump's policies were indeed a Godsend. But for anyone wishing to keep the door open for eventual peaceful coexistence, they were a disaster.

As for the Abraham Accords, recognition of Israel by marginal Arab states was part of a long-term evolution for which the Trump administration cannot take credit. It is also clear that this process has serious limits unless and until there is progress on the Palestinian front.

Finally, like U.S. Republicans, Israeli leaders will have to account some day for their collaboration with Trumpism and all it represents. Will Israel come down on the right side of history? Let us hope so.