It’s possible to detest Donald Trump with the fire of a thousand suns and still concede that he’s done something positive. Possible, but rare. More often these days Trump antagonists adopt rigid positions that are predicated on the assumption that anything the president does must be immoral and destructive. Few people illustrate this intellectual cratering more dramatically than Max Boot.
This week, the one-time Israel supporter embraced a slate of J-Street talking points in The Washington Post — including ominous references to nefarious puppet-string pulling Jewish financiers. What supposedly irks Boot is the “emerging conservative talking point that Trump ‘is the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history.'”
Though, I grant, it’s too early to make wide-ranging historical pronouncements about a presidency, Trump certainly has a strong case. Not only has his administration improve the long-term projections for peace by finally following U.S. law and moving the American embassy to the Israeli capital — a move Boot claims to support, but says doesn’t really matter — the president also exited the broken Iran deal, despite what must have been tremendous international pressure to remain, and gave Israel unequivocal support in both its military campaign against Iranian targets in Syria and Hamas terrorists on the border of Gaza.
If we were to apply pre-Trump standards to these moves, they would undeniably be considered pro-Israel. And judging from reaction of Israel’s most reliable enemies, and the reaction of the vast majority of Israel’s citizens, we can still consider them pro-Israel. Only one variable has changed in the equation.
Boot adopts the well-worn progressive position that argues that Israeli people don’t know what’s best for them, the Left does. Trump, Boot says, “may be the most closely aligned with Israel’s current government, led by a fellow scandal-plagued right-winger, but that doesn’t mean Trump is safeguarding Israel’s interests. He is, in fact, inflicting long-term damage on the U.S.-Israeli alliance.”
There are a number of problems with this contention, starting with the fact that every major party (and most minor ones) in Israeli politics, not merely the center-right government, opposed the Iran deal. As did, by the way, AIPAC, and basically every Jewish organization concerned Israel wellbeing.
After the Iran deal was finalized, then center-left Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog warned that the deal would bring chaos, and “have a direct influence over the balance of power in our region, it’s going to affect our borders, and it will affect the safety of my children.” The new left-wing alliance leader in Israel didn’t take any position on the future of the deal, but poll after poll finds majorities of Israelis not only oppose the deal but also believe it brings the Islamic terror state closer to a nuclear weapon.
The head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, said he was “100 percent certain” that Iran had remained committed to developing a nuclear bomb. Mossad offered evidence to back up their contention that deal was nothing more than a glide path to nuclear weapons. This week, The New York Times bolstered Mossad’s case when it reported — in a piece gummed up its usual bias — that Iran had been secretly working on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel in a secret desert location.
The debate within Israeli leadership after the Obama administration signed on to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the president never brought any deal to the Senate for ratification; a fact that supposed champions of “norms” don’t seem very concerned about) was whether it was beneficial to fix it or scrap it. Boot misleadingly brings up IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who, in one interview with Haaretz, asserted that Iran had been slowed down in its efforts. The comment was made in broader discussion in which Eisenkot also notes that he did not believe the deal would contain Iran in the long run and that Israel “assume[s] that Iran can operate secretly.”
Whatever the case, Eisenkot supported fixing the deal. Iran, as we now know, wouldn’t revisit the sunset provisions or anything else.
Whether staying in the deal was in the best interests of the United States is another argument. Since the Iran Deal did absolutely nothing meaningful to safeguard against the production of nuclear weapons in the long run — a point conceded by most of its supporters — and continued to allow Iran to undermine American interests, fund terrorism and destabilize the Middle East, there is a good argument for the Trump administration to exit and seek a better deal. The idea, as Boot claims in his column, that sanctions will be worthless, is highly debatable. But that’s another story. (Not to mention, according to the IAEA, Iran will continue (pretending) to uphold the agreement even without the United States.)
It has to be noted, that nearly every Republican candidate running for the presidency in 2016 promised to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action if they won the election. Would there be a Max Boot column accusing Marco Rubio of inflicting long-term damage on the U.S.-Israeli alliance if he fulfilled that campaign promise? Would there be a Boot column intimating that Jewish money was behind Jeb Bush’s support for the right-wing government of Israel if he fulfilled his campaign promise on Jerusalem? Of course not.
Moreover, Boot’s contention that Trump is exacerbating the end of the “bipartisan consensus” on Israel is a myth. There is no bipartisan consensus on Israel anymore. Barack Obama blew it up. Republicans have remained consistently supportive of Israel, and the Left has been consistently moving away from that position. The notion that conservatives should mute their support because progressives Democrats view Iran and Hamas as morally comparable to the Jewish State, or because Democrats are turned off by Evangelical support for Israel, is the kind of partisan consideration Boot, who views himself as a modern-day Soviet-era dissident, supposedly abhors.
Just imagine Boot writing a column imploring Democrats to be more consolatory towards Vladimir Putin because Republicans have become less antagonistic towards Russia? You know, we need to preserve bipartisan consensus! A person would need some highly malleable principles to make that argument. Then again, it’s always possible that a person who contends he “would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than … Donald Trump” has completely lost his way.