Friday, March 24, 2023

Partisanship has always struck me as curious, the notion that we must vote for a particular political party always and forever, regardless of its current positions, leaders and tendencies. It is worth observing that the Orthodox rabbis who are most vociferous in their support for Joe Biden have always supported every Democrat, without fail, whether Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, Obama, Clinton and now Biden. It is as if there was a mandate from Sinai that “every Jew must vote Democrat forever!”—and he will therefore toil wearily to overlook FDR’s dismissal of the Holocaust, the Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden occasional rank hostility to Israel and Jewish interests, and scour the terrain like an archeologist to unearth the reason why the Republican is always a closet Jew hater and the tool of racist and white supremacists. (Yes, these same accusations were lodged against Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. It is part of the Democrat playbook.)

I have twice voted for Democrat presidential candidates, something it is hard to see happening again given where the party is now, but I did it because at the time they were the best candidates in my reckoning for America, Israel and the Jewish people. Anyone with an open mind can see that the Democratic Party has trended in the last two decades to a view of the world that is antithetical to Israel and Jews—globalist, cosmopolitan, secular, with barely concealed tolerance for a Jewish nation state and for the traditional values on which America was founded and because of which Jews have prospered.

Here are some compelling reasons why Americans should vote for Donald Trump’s re-election— and why it matters.

First, it should be obvious that gratitude is a fundamental Jewish virtue and, for that reason alone, the simple gesture of voting to re-elect the most pro-Israel president in history should suffice. But concomitant with gratitude should be the realization that President Trump has incorporated Israel’s best interests into American domestic and foreign policy to an unprecedented degree.

Here is just a partial list:

  • He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American embassy there; he recognized the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory and the legality of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria;
  • He pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal and orchestrated peace treaties between Israel and three Arab states, with others apparently in the works;
  • He closed the PLO mission in Washington and halted aid to the Palestine Authority, recognizing that American taxpayer dollars were being diverted to fund the PA’s “pay for slay” travesty;
  • He unequivocally defended Israel in the United Nations and other international forums, and worked to undo the lasting damage of the anti-Israel resolution spearheaded by the American government in the waning days of the Obama-Biden administration that declared, among other things, that the Western Wall is sovereign Arab territory;
  • He recognized the right of Israeli settlement as legal, reversing a tendentious State Department legal opinion that dated to the Carter administration;
  • He has repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism, and became the only president to sign an Executive Order combating anti-Semitism on American college campuses (where it is rampant);
  • He threatened to freeze federal funds to colleges that don’t protect Jews from discrimination on campus.

There is much more; the list goes on. To suggest, as some have, that “anyone would have done it,” that “it would have happened anyway,” is false, frivolous and churlish. Besides, rabbis should know that “whoever begins a mitzvah and doesn’t complete it, and another does complete it, the mitzvah is attributed to the one who completes it.” (Masechet Sotah 13b) President Trump did it—and he did it without receiving or expecting significant support from liberal American Jews or deriving any political benefit from Jews for his staunch support of Israel. That speaks as well of him as it speaks poorly of Jews.

The fact is that Joe Biden didn’t do any of this—not in the 47 years he was in Washington. He is not anti-Israel—that wouldn’t be fair. He supports a certain type of Israel – the one that has to make concessions for “peace,” the Israel that is an American ward, not an American friend and ally, the Israel accepts American money and therefore must bend to American dictates, and has no right to settle Jews in, of all places, the heartland of the land of Israel. Suffice it to say that, beneath the pleasant smile and the flowery rhetoric, Israeli prime ministers from Menachem Begin to Binyamin Netanyahu felt the wrath and absorbed the vitriol of Joe Biden for the sins of building homes in Israel, including Yerushalayim, and defending Israeli civilians.

Second, a strong America benefits Israel as it keeps American and Israeli adversaries, including Iran, at bay. President Trump has articulated a belief in the smart but limited projection of American military power and he has forcefully applied economic sanctions to a number of countries engaged in acts of global destabilization.

This “America First” policy—which greatly advantages Israel as well —contrasts sharply with the globalist view of the Obama-Biden administration and others which sub-contracted American influence to neutral or hostile elements and emboldened rogue nations to perpetrate acts of evil with impunity. One need only recall the days of kowtowing to Iran and subsidizing its terror operations, of drawing red lines in the sand that were erased the moment they were crossed, and acquiescing in the conquest by major powers of adjacent territories to realize the inherent danger of a return to those policies, all of which will occur in a Biden-Harris administration.

A Biden administration, it should be feared, will mean a return to terror, a tool that has been largely dormant in the last few years because it was counterproductive to Palestinian interests (Israel fought it, the Arabs opposed it, and the American government never sought to hamstring Israel’s right of self-defense); a revival of American funding of terrorists (under the guise of providing humanitarian aid to the PA; money is fungible); the return of the cruel diplomatic dance of condemning “violence on both sides” when Israel responds to or thwarts terror; a return to the folly of “land for peace”; and a renewal of the castigations of Israel when a Jew adds a room to a house in Bet El. Iran will again be coddled and funded. The reason why so many Arab countries have warmed to Israel during the Trump administration was a direct result of the bizarre and deadly Obama-Biden tilt to Iran. That is why Iran and Israel’s Muslim foes (like Turkey) want Joe Biden back, and most of the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States) and Israel anticipate with joy a second Trump administration.

Third, the US Supreme Court has attempted, in recent years, to revert to a more constitutionally appropriate role interpreting and applying the will of America’s foundational documents. That has not been an easy nor altogether successful enterprise, as it is difficult for any institution to relinquish power it has claimed for itself. But it is slowly changing, and that is due to the incumbent American president.

President Trump has appointed and continues to appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who adhere to a more limited, originalist philosophy. Such not only stabilizes American society—either the Constitution means what it says, or fundamental principles can change abruptly based on the whims of five justices in a land of 330,000,000 people with the attendant disruptions to societal order—but it can only have a positive influence on jurisprudence in Israel where the High Court similarly arrogates to itself powers it should not have. Conversely, an American judicial system whose judges are appointed by a President Biden will encourage even more unbridled activism by the Supreme Court that further erode American democracy and make elections almost irrelevant.

The recent threats to religious liberty in America should be a clarion call to all Jews. A land in which riots and demonstrations have constitutional protections that religious worship and Torah study do not is a land that will in due course become inhospitable to Jewish life. Jews should take note, even if some rabbis don’t, that the marauders, arsonists and anarchists that have destroyed American cities are not Republicans but have been aided and abetted by the Democrat mayors, governors and even Joe Biden. Their America—the America that the rioters seek—is not one in which Jews will be welcome, as they perceive Jews as integral parts of the systemic racism they allege holds them back, enriches the few at the expense of the many. Those people, in a Biden/Harris administration, are coming for you.

Fourth, a victory for President Trump would greatly weaken the “cancel culture” promoted by progressives in America that seeks to destroy individuals whose words or actions simply offend them. This “cancel culture” is today routinely accompanied by attacks on freedom of speech, assembly and worship. It attempts to silence any voices that dissent from the progressive orthodoxy the critics wish to impose.

To an incalculable extent, President Trump stands in the way of the “cancel culture,” even as Joe Biden is a beneficiary and even an unwitting advocate for it. A vote for Biden will bolster every negative social trend in America, and the open borders he and his party effectively promotes—with a path to citizenship for every illegal alien—will fundamentally transform America. Jews have a comfort level in the United States (that is not always warranted or salutary); that comfort level will continue to decline. It should be sobering to all Jews that the enemies of Jews in America and across the world largely support the election of Joe Biden. That doesn’t make him a bad person—support is support—but it should be considered.

Fifth, President Trump’s temperament. Well, in all candor, that is not a reason to vote for him but certainly not a reason to vote against him. I, too, wish he would act more presidential, tweet less, cut out the nicknames, and never punch below his weight class against inane celebrities. But his greatest weakness is also his greatest strength: he is not a politician. Joe Biden is a politician. (Typical politician talk: “I will not ban fracking!” That is probably true but he could always regulate and tax it into non-existence, accomplishing the same goal having not actually “banned” it – and shifting the United States away from complete energy independence to a renewed reliance on imported oil.) A politician is a chameleon, with positions that change depending on the audience. A politician profits from his position and enriches his family – and then denies knowing anything about it. Trump is not a politician. He has never perfected the oleaginous politician double talk nor, for that matter, the fairly obvious goal of trying to reach out to people beyond your most loyal base. The former is great, the latter—less so.

The bottom line is that I do not seek moral guidance from any political leader of any party but only from the Torah. Harry Truman’s curses, anti-black and anti-Jewish slurs flowed like water over Niagara. It didn’t prevent him from desegregating the American army or recognizing Israel’s existence, both controversial actions. No president was more vulgar than Lyndon Johnson. Presidents—just take recent history—like FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump all suffered from “women” problems, as does Joe Biden, whose predations against women have been so ignored by his supporters and the media that he seems to have single handedly eradicated the MeToo movement. Kamala Harris entered political life as the consort of a politically-powerful married man. By contrast, Mike Pence observes the laws of yichud, and is ridiculed for it by the enlightened press that routinely scolds Republicans (only Republicans; Democrat offenders get a pass) for their randiness, even mistreatment of women.

For sure, Trump has been more bitter than most presidents, but only because no prior president ever endured such sustained spying on his campaign (much worse than Watergate), the attempt to tarnish and overthrow him with bogus accusations of foreign influence, the relentless hostility of the press (magnified now because of social media and 24/7 news), the illegal and immediate leaking of intelligence information (including private Oval Office conversations – something that has never happened in American history), and the disloyalty of so many entrenched government officials. All of this occurred, mainly, because of their conclusion that the American people were wrong to have elected him and that he was a ready and present danger as president. And all he did was bring prosperity and peace.

Sixth, “follow the science” has become a poll-tested cliché of the Democrats. I am not a physician but I do know that the presidency is a high stress job that requires daily multi-tasking and rapid decision-making on matters of great consequence. We all wish Joe Biden well, win or lose, but no one can truly contend with any credibility that he currently possesses the vitality, vigor and mental acuity to function as president now, and certainly not when he hits 82 years old towards the end of his term (if elected). Hard core Jewish Democrats who impute to Biden the nostalgic moderation of the old Democrat should consider how they would enjoy a President Harris, who is as unaccomplished a politician as she is a creature of the radical left, whose views—on religion, culture, values, the economy, Israel, etc.—are inimical to everything that Jews should profess. If you really “follow the science,” no one Biden’s age or condition should be running for, much less serving as, President.

And the Corona virus? Politics has never been known for sincerity or fairness but certainly the vicious and tendentious accusations against President Trump’s handling of the virus are obviously unfair. Israel has been wracked by its second wave of Corona after touting its response to the first wave; stores, schools and the country itself remain mostly closed. The unrest and discontent here is as great as in any country. Europe, now, is being battered by its second wave—France, Spain, Italy, the UK and elsewhere are rapidly shutting down or scrambling to find some way forward. The bottom line is that no one truly knows what to do—not Trump, not Biden, not the scientists. Read the “Great Barrington Declaration” promulgated a few weeks ago by thousands of scientists, decrying the lockdown response to the virus as deadlier than the virus itself and with even more dreadful long term consequences.

Sure, follow the science. And what if the scientists are in dispute? What if the scientists do not know? Then a leader weighs the advice and input of different sources, not merely the science, and determines what is best for the society. And when the subject is an unprecedented pandemic, honest people allow for flexibility in response and mature people recognize that there is no panacea. But politics is politics, and “follow the science” is a great slogan for virtue-signaling secularists.

Seventh, and finally, can we please put a stop to this notion of Trump as “dog-whistling Jew hater”? It is preposterous. The Charlottesville hoax, perpetrated by the media, can be rebutted by any person who spends three minutes watching the press conference. The “fine people on both sides” referred to different views among protesting southerners as to the acceptability of Confederate statues. A minute later, Trump said explicitly that he is not referring to “white supremacists” who should be unequivocally condemned. And think about it—the violence there was carried out by white supremacists and Antifa militants; did the President really say there are “fine” Antifa? I think not, but this hoary notion of the Republican candidate who secretly hates Jews also surfaces in every election cycle. And Jews fall for it time and again.

I was in the White House several times when President Trump, speaking to an audience of American Jews, referred to Israel as “your country” and Netanyahu as “your prime minister.” I laughed because I knew how it sounded and what he meant – that Jews have a special bond and connection to their homeland. Shame on those Jews who see this as nefarious—but perhaps that is why I write from Israel, and not America.

It is astonishing, also, that the liberal Jewish media has spent years chastising Trump’s Jewish and observant children—and kvell over Harris’ intermarried Jewish husband. That too does not portend well for American Jewry.

Baruch Hashem, we have seen under the first Trump administration the glorious advantages of having an unabashedly pro-Israel administration, one that advocates for traditional values and freedoms and perceives Israel as a partner, friend and ally, one that endorses and promotes the traditional values on which America was founded, and has unleashed the American economy to remarkable achievement.

We should not take that for granted. We will rue the day if and when it is no longer the case. Here in Israel it has been widely observed that the only advantage to a Biden administration will be an anticipated upsurge in American aliyah. Life will become more difficult. The mob will have won, and the streets will again be the domain of rioters and looters, those who think only their lives matter and no one else’s, and the craven politicians who support them. That is the future – only with a redistribution of the wealth from the productive to the unproductive, wealth for which generations of Americans have worked hard.

If Donald Trump is not your cup of tea, then go have a coffee – and then vote for him. Vote for the man whose policies have strengthened both the United States of America and the nation of Israel, and who promises, credibly, more of the same.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky recently made aliyah after serving as a pulpit rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey for 26 years. He is currently the Israel Region Vice-President of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

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