US Jewry's silence as Trump prepares to squeeze Israel

American Jews must stop biting their tongues and hoping those troubling statements are not indicative of actual U.S. policy.

Att'y Stephen M. Flatow

OpEds  Amb. Bolton looks on as Pres. Trump briefs press after NATO summit, Brussels
Amb. Bolton looks on as Pres. Trump briefs press after NATO summit, Brussels

The American Jewish community should be up in arms over President Trump’s declaration that Israel now has to pay a “high price” because it’s the Palestinians’ “turn” to “get something very good,” following the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year.

Trump’s disturbing remark, made in a speech in West Virginia on Tuesday, followed several previous hints along the same lines. In a tweet on January 2, 2018, he wrote: “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.”

Similarly, Trump told reporters in Davos on January 25: "I helped it because by taking it off the table—that was the toughest issue—and Israel will pay for that. You won one point and you'll give up some points later on in negotiations if it ever takes place.”

Mr. Trump views the entire Israeli-Palestinian situation as a matter for horse-trading. Israel “got” something in the embassy move, so now it’s the Palestinians’ “turn” to get something.
But President Trump’s latest statement is the most troubling articulation of the president’s mindset regarding Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He now has made it clear that he does not really grasp the nature of the Palestinian war against Israel, and does not understand that the Palestinian leadership is irrevocably committed to terrorism and hatred.

Instead, Mr. Trump views the entire Israeli-Palestinian situation as a matter for horse-trading. Israel “got” something in the embassy move, so now it’s the Palestinians’ “turn” to get something. Not because the Palestinians made some concession. Not because their behavior demonstrates they are moderate and peaceful and trustworthy. No, simply because it’s all a matter of “taking turns.”

No matter how much the PA incites violence, no matter how many terrorists its harbors, no matter how many Hamas weapons factories flourish under PA rule—still, it’s their “turn” to “get something.”

And not just any old “something”—it’s going to be “something very good.” Meaning, in all likelihood, that the concession Trump has in mind won’t be just symbolic, like the kind Israel “got.” Rather, it will be something concrete and probably irreversible. Because that’s how it always goes—Israel’s gains are almost always symbolic, while the Palestinians almost always receive concrete concessions such as Jewish construction being halted or terrorists being set free.

During the past year, pro-Israel organizations have focused on the Trump administration’s pro-Israel gestures, while looking the other way when he took steps to the contrary.

We all cheered Niki Haley’s great speeches at the United Nations,  the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Commission, and of course the moving of the embassy.

But there was no hue and cry from Jewish organizations when the Trump administration pressured Israel to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount following the murder of two Israeli police officers.

There were no protest rallies when Trump publicly pressured Israel to halt Jewish construction in the territories, declaring at his press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu on February 15, 2017, that "I would like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit”—as if Jews living in their historical homeland are somehow an obstacle to peace.

No Jewish leaders were marching in the streets when President Trump told Israel Hayom on Feb. 9, 2017  that “the settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements."

I didn’t hear any Jewish organizations shouting when U.S. officials said of Trump’s forthcoming Mideast peace plan that “both sides are going to love some of it, and hate some of it” and “the plan won't be loved by either side, and it won't be hated by either side” — thus treating democratic Israel and the terrorist PA as if they are morally equivalent.

American Jews bit their tongues and hoped those statements and actions were not indicative of actual U.S. policy. But now we know better. Trump’s demand that Israel pay a “high price” and his promise to give the PA “something very good” should be a game changer.

Jewish leaders need to speak out, loudly and clearly and repeatedly. They need to make it clear to the president and his team that Israel has spent 70 years paying high prices—surrendering land, releasing terrorists, freezing construction—and has received no peace in return.

The time for squeezing Israel, and making concessions to the Palestinians, is over.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” will be published later this year