Donald Trump, Morton Klein, and Effective Jewish Leadership

Joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and US President Donald Trump, Washington DC, USA - 15 Feb 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN April 13 that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements wouldn’t hurt the administration’s forthcoming peace plan, a gesture of support to the Jewish State unthinkable under any previous administration. Following President Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights earlier this month, Pompeo’s declaration is a landmark victory for the Jewish State. It is also a victory for the small minority of American Jewish leaders who stood by President Trump, and joined hands with evangelical Christians and other conservatives to support the realignment of American policy with America’s closest and most reliable ally in the world. Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein, whom I have the honor to call a friend, is the most outspoken advocate of this realignment among the leaders of major American Jewish organizations. Not surprisingly, he’s taking the most incoming.

We live in strange times, when supporting the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel makes you a pariah among the liberal majority of American Jews. An April 12 item in The Times of Israel reports that nine American Jewish organizations—including the Reform and Conservative movements—asked President Trump to stop PM Netanyahu from annexing West Bank settlements. Among other reasons, annexation “would create intense divisions” among American Jews, the statement said. The liberal Jewish organization got their answer the next day from Secretary Pompeo.

I was saddened to read Armin Rosen’s diatribe against Mort Klein April 10 in the Jewish webzine The Tablet, a publication to which I have contributed since its inception, and several of whose writers and editors I count as friends. It’s a kitchen-sink sort of attack, dredging up every complaint from every disgruntled employee that an organization might incur over decades, including a security guard’s suit for alleged back pay. And it even cites a salacious personal smear against Mort and his wife Rita, emailed to the publication from an anonymous account. Rosen, to be sure, quotes the Kleins’ refutation of the story, but they should not have been subjected to this sort of thing in the first place.

“The ZOA is squatting on a piece of the ideological spectrum that could be put to good use,” Rosen quotes an unnamed Republican activist. “On the far left, J Street has built a meaningful membership by paying attention beyond DC—building local chapters, college campus groups, and so on. Tragically, nobody is doing this on the responsible right. ZOA should have been—and not only because it historically had this foundation.” This is twaddle from a source too timid to go on record reciting a bromide. Just the opposite is true. Pro-Trump Jewish students on college campuses are hunkered down, persecuted by a faculty that is liberal by an 8:1 margin and administrators who are liberal by a 12:1 margin. J Street has the near-official support of most university administrations. Jewish conservatives on campus are subject to a reign of terror, and what they require is a courageous leader who can speak for them. That’s what Morton Klein has been doing, and that makes him the most effective leader of any of the major organizations.

Iran wants to destroy Israel. Hamas is Iran’s cat’s paw. Without the Israeli Army, Hamas would overthrow the feckless Palestine Authority in days, the way it kicked Mahmoud Abbas’ papier-mâché government out of Gaza in 2007 after Israel withdrew. Iran has brought 80,000 mercenaries into Syria in addition to its own Revolutionary Guard Corps, and emplaced 150,000 rockets with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Those are undisputed facts. Disputed, but nonetheless true, is that Hamas seeks to maximize casualties among the civilian population it controls in order to win the sympathy of the squeamish West. No combatant in history has ever behaved so cruelly to its own people.

President Trump has responded by withdrawing from the Iran deal, slapping sanctions on Iran, branding  the Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank, and, most recently, endorsing de facto Netanyahu’s promise to extend Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements. In short, Trump refuses to play the insipid, hypocritical game that sapped the credibility resources of his predecessors. The sky has not fallen; on the contrary, Israel’s prospective adversaries in the region, including Russia, Egypt, and the Gulf States, accord Israel all the more respect for it. The regimes of the Middle East respect strength, not squeamishness, and America’s show of strength has restored respect to America and its allies. One doesn’t have to endorse everything the president does to recognize that he has done more for Israel’s security than any other American.

The problem, I wrote in Tablet nearly five years ago, is not the settlers, but the unsettlers. ISIS has been crushed as a unified military force but its militants lurk in the civillian population, ready to regroup. Iran has imported at least 80,000 militiamen into Syria as shock troops and settlers. Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel from its northern border. Egypt is fighting a dirty war against Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. And Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, uses its base in Gaza to fire rockets at Israeli civilians. As al-Jazeera reported last year, “regional dynamics have pushed Hamas back into Iran’s embrace.” Hamas would seize control of the West Bank from Abbas in moments if not for the presence of the Israeli army. Under any foreseeable conditions, a Palestinian state in the West Bank would become a cesspool for jihadists attacking Israel in combination with the rocket jihads of Gaza as well as Hezbollah.

Everyone knows this, which means that the two-state solution is merely a Potemkin village left standing to assuage liberal sensibilities and the residual sense of grievance in the Arab world. Israelis are tired of the whole sick charade, which is why they voted Netanyahu back into office with a mandate to establish Israeli sovereign over territories that otherwise would be staging grounds for Iranian rocket attacks.

Suicide by cop, suicide by Israel: There is a reason that Black Lives Matter cohabits with Linda Sarsour and Rep. Ilhan Omar on the lunatic fringe of American politics. Michael Brown sadly chose suicide when he put his head down and charged at Officer Darren Wilson in 2014, and we listened to two years’ worth of lies about the incident before Wilson was exonerated. The cannon-fodder of Gaza whom Hamas herds to the Israeli border chooses suicide in a similar way. This is too horrible for liberal sensibilities to absorb. The fault must lie with the policeman defending his life, or the Israeli soldiers defending their border against terrorists who want to massacre civilians. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, like Hamas and ISIS, are fanatics who would rather die than live peacefully next to a Jewish State; at the very least, they would rather arrange the deaths of large numbers of their subject populations. Liberal Jews can afford to preen their moral feathers. Israelis have to live under the threat of rockets and know better.

Traditionally non-partisan organizations like the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee are less effective than they used to be, because the Democratic Party has made Israel a partisan issue. Most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls boycotted last month’s AIPAC annual conference in Washington. As noted, the liberal Jewish denominations, as well as the venerable Anti-Defamation League, have turned on Israel. As Jews around the world prepare for the Passover feast that marks the birth of the Jewish people at the Exodus from Egypt, I can’t help recalling an ancient rabbinic commentary (Midrash) that claims that most Jews did not leave Egypt with Moses. They were too comfortable and too complacent to heed God’s call and venture into the wilderness. Gathered around the fleshpots, American Jews are abandoning the liberal denominations in droves and joining the ranks of the none-of-the-aboves.