Note to Conspiracy Theorists: The Neo-Conservatives Aren't Zionists
The betting markets on the American primary elections show an 87% probability that Hillary Clinton will head the Democratic ticket and a 76% probability that Donald Trump will lead the Republicans. Between the two, Trump is the pro-Israel candidate. First, his daughter Ivanka is an observant Orthodox Jew after her conversion and marriage to Jared Kushner, the scion of a prominent family of Jewisih philanthropists. Second, and most decisive, Trump feels no obligation to win favor among Muslims, proposing a temporary ban against any Muslim entering the United States. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, surrounded herself with advisers openly hostile to Israel and pondered covert funding for Palestinian civil disobedience to pressure the Israeli government.
Rarely have Americans had such a clear choice between pro-Israel and not-so-pro-Israel candidates. Remarkably, the neo-conservatives prefer Hillary Clinton. That should confuse the conspiracy theorists. A Google search produces 400,000 hits for the search terms "neoconservative" and "Zionist." Yet the leading neoconservatives say they won't vote for Trump under any circumstances, and one prominent neocon, Robert Kagan, has already declared for Hillary against Trump. Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and head of the Emergency Committee for Israel, has declared that he would never vote for Trump under any circumstances, and so has long-time Republican official Peter Wehner. Kristol has said that he won't support Hillary, but threatens to mount a third-party effort if Trump is nominated--which would draw Republican votes away from Trump and help Clinton.
Remarkably, Kristol's Emergency Committee for Israel is running a TV ad denouncing Trump for "kissing up to anti-American dictators"--an unusual use of funds by an organization founded to support Israel rather than support particular candidates, and especially unusual when it is directed against a pro-Israel candidate. Trump notoriously has said that America could work with Russia's Vladimir Putin against terrorists, and argued that toppling Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi benefited the terrorists. One cannot quite say that Trump paints with a broad brush; rather, he throws the bucket of paint against the wall. But the neo-conservatives' defining dogma is to undermine dictators and promote democracy. Trump's view is closer to that of the Israeli consensus. Israel is pragmatic, generally preferring the Arab dictatorships to the chaos that replaced them. Israel's relations with Russia are complex but generally good, especially in operational matters in Syria.
For the most part, Trump is exactly correct. The Libyan adventure, backed vociferously by the neo-conservatives as well as the Obama administration, turned Libya into a Petri dish for terrorists. Imposing Shia majority rule in Iraq under the Bush administration turned Iraq into an Iranian satrapy. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein as such was not the problem; marginalizing Iraq's Sunnis prepared the ground for ISIS. Russia has far more to worry about from Islamic terrorism than the United States, and in theory might cooperate with Washington even while opposing U.S. interests in other spheres.