Israel: Clinton vs. Trump

Israel: Clinton vs. Trump

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Israelis in general and many identified American Jews truly have a problem recognizing the remarkable nomination ever of a woman to be president.  In fairness, for Israelis seeing a woman selected as the possible head of the government is truly old hat; but how they can possibly believe that a totally unknown and unpredictable Donald Trump presidency will be better for Israel than Hillary difficult to comprehend. On the other hand—assuming he is genuinely committed and not merely sending up another trial balloon—these same Israeli Trump supporters would be hard pressed to explain why their Prime Minister now suddenly is reported to be ready to sign shortly the pending ten year U.S.-Israeli defense Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Obama Administration.

This is occurring despite Rudy Giuliani’s declaration that Israeli leaders told him in the spring that they preferred Trump. It also flies in the face of an interview that Senator Lindsey Graham’s gave where declared that Obama is not being as generous to Israel in the MoU as Congress would be. Despite these two Republican and partisan forces, all signals suggest that the MoU will be signed considerably before the November election. If so, this would be an accomplishment to which Obama-Clinton could point as American Jews consider the viability of a Clinton election.

In America, many in the successful modern Orthodox community over the past several decades—unlike the major portion of the identified Jewish community—have moved consistently politically to the right. They have tended to vote Republican, while not necessarily registering as such. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaigns this portion of the Jewish community as well as other segments as well actively supported many of the Republican candidates—other than Trump. Now that Trump is the nominee, many within this segment of the Jewish community are organizing to back Trump both politically as well as financially.

The rhetoric and the personalities notwithstanding, the Obama Administration has maintained the highest level of support for Israel’s security and military needs in its history. Bibi and Obama may not like each other and have different views on a number of regional issues in addition to the Iranian threat, but not on sustaining strategic support for Israel. The assumption that Americans Jews would be better off backing Trump suggests an irrationality in their political behavior assuming their politically defining issue is support for Israel; anyone is better than Hillary. 

In fact, it appears rather that they believe that any Republican candidate will do more to protect their economic interests and pursuits; even an unknown candidate like Trump. So far there is no evidence to suggest that Israel will be better served by a Trump Administration or that the civil rights and civil liberties of American Jews will be better protected if Trump were elected despite the fact that his daughter converted and became an Orthodox Jew. As for their economic interests, that too remains to be seen.

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