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Why Being Pro-Israel and Backing Donald Trump Are Mutually Exclusive Positions

What is bad for the United States is bad for the Jewish state, which depends on America’s global leadership for its physical and diplomatic security

Yair Rosenberg
May 13, 2016
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, May 5, 2016. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, May 5, 2016. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Today, after weeks of sending signals that he would support Donald Trump for president, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson made it official. Writing in The Washington Post, the casino magnate declared, “I am endorsing Trump’s bid for president and strongly encourage my fellow Republicans—especially our Republican elected officials, party loyalists and operatives, and those who provide important financial backing—to do the same.”

Adelson styles himself as a staunch supporter of Israel and its security, and has given millions of dollars towards those causes over the course of his career. He recently claimed that Trump would be “good for Israel.” But his endorsement of the candidate—setting aside whatever one might think of Adelson’s hawkish outlook—shows that he critically misunderstands what it means to be “pro-Israel.”

This is not really because of Trump’s policy positions on Israel, though those are less than inspiring. When not reading off a script at AIPAC, Trump has suggested that Israel should have to repay the defense aid it received from the United States. He has also argued that Israel should build more settlements, in defiance of the international community. Taken together, these do not seem like particularly pro-Israel positions and look more like a recipe for diplomatic disaster. But more importantly, even if one does believe Trump’s stances would be good for Israel, supporting Trump for president absolutely is not.

That’s because what is good for America is good for Israel and what is bad for America is bad for Israel. The United States is Israel’s greatest benefactor—it is the Jewish state’s guarantor through security aid, and its diplomatic shield in hostile international forums like the United Nations. A world led by an empowered America with a thriving economy and an outward-looking foreign policy is a good world for Israel. By contrast, a world in which the United States has turned inward, sabotaged its own economy through protectionism, and withdrawn from global leadership is a world in which anti-Israel regimes and actors would have free rein to pursue their malicious agenda.

In other words, regardless of whether you find his Israel policy positions appealing, Trump would be a disaster for Israel because he would be a disaster for America. He has questioned the need for NATO, one of the great Western bulwarks against Russian aggression and global strife. He wants to impose draconian tariffs on foreign goods that economists project would precipitously penalize American consumers, costing them $459 billion annually, or over $6,000 for every American family. Trump has even threatened to “open up” libel laws so that he can go after media outlets that are critical of him, in blatant violation of the First Amendment.

The implications of these policies are stark. An America under Donald Trump would be less free, less prosperous, and less able to assert its will in global affairs. It would cede the international arena to powers like Russia, China, and Iran, who harbor no love for Israel or Western democracy. No serious friend of Israel, whether hawkish or dovish, could possibly seek to bring this world into being.

Tellingly, Adelson’s 722-word endorsement of Trump does not mention even one of the candidate’s policy positions, and instead offers only vague bromides about Trump’s leadership experience. It’s not an oversight. It’s because as soon as any of Trump’s positions are subjected to even cursory scrutiny, they are revealed to be half-baked, counter-productive, and often downright dangerous. The only way to endorse Trump—whether as good for America or good for Israel—is by ignoring pretty much everything he actually says.

That’s not friendship, that’s negligence.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.