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May 17, 2017 1:55 pm

From Truman to Trump — America and Israel, Then and Now

avatar by Michael Widlanski


Israeli and American flags. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A popular president known as a great sophisticated thinker, speaker and reformer is suddenly replaced — almost out of nowhere — by a crude upstart.

The world is worried. What will the future bring? Will we be safe?

It sounds like Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Wrong. It is really Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Roosevelt — FDR as he was known — was the master of talk, especially the “fireside chat.” Truman was a small-towner, known for cursing and for threatening reporters who criticized his daughter’s singing ability.

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FDR was loved by high society and also minorities, the black community and American Jewish leaders. They thought him enlightened. They were wrong, according to events and historical documents. Roosevelt had racist attitudes. He put Japanese Americans in camps, and he did little or nothing to save Jews being sent to death camps in Europe or trying to seek refuge in America.

Truman was largely misjudged and Roosevelt was vastly overrated or worse completely misread by his admiring flock. In reality, Truman had a real feel for minorities. He desegregated the US army, and he supported the new State of Israel despite almost universal opposition from the American security community.

Yet even Truman was really doubtful that the new State of Israel could survive the continuing Arab onslaught in early 1948. That fear of another annihilation of Jews as well as the allure of Arab oil and Arab power, more than antisemitism, were factors that drove the entire US security community to oppose Israeli statehood and support Arab positions.

Truman, a God-fearing man who knew his bible, supported Israel.

Obviously there are many differences between Truman and Trump, but some similarities are actually quite intriguing. One of these is the incredible misperception of Truman by the American establishment and by Jewish organizational elites. Some of that is clearly repeating itself with Trump, as some Jewish leaders even raised the specter that Trump and his advisors had anti-Jewish sentiments. Few contentions are more ridiculous. In fact, it is likely that Trump will be remembered along with Truman, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush — all for their warm feelings to Israel.

One of the big differences, or as President Trump might say — H-U-G-E — differences between the Truman period and the Trump period is the vast array of changes in Israel, in the US and, indeed, around the world.

When Israel was born the life expectancy of the average Israeli, especially the average Israeli man, was not that high. Today — despite all the wars and the terror, the average male life expectancy is 83. For comparison, the average lifespan of a Russian man is about fifty-three.

At various points in its history, particularly during and after the 1973 October War — known to Israelis as the Yom Kippur War — Israel needed generous US aid to cement military victories and to have a chance for peace. The portion of US aid in the Israeli economy often passed 25% of Israel’s GDP. But that has dropped dramatically, and the portion is now about one percent of the Israeli GDP.

This aid is now better viewed as a very smart US investment in its own security and global reach. As the late Alexander Haig (a former supreme commander of NATO and US secretary of state) once observed, Israel can be seen as the largest US aircraft carrier, which doesn’t require a single American on board, sparing the US tax payer $15-20 billion annually.

Actually, even this description downplays Israel’s role aiding US intelligence, weapons development, producing combat tactics and doctrine and improving combat readiness. The three or four billion dollars in US military assistance to Israel is the best security investment the US has ever made. Ask any US officer who has worked beside an Israeli.

Trump, probably better than any president before him, knows how to leverage a good investment.

President Trump will not do what President Obama did — reach out to the Muslim world and come back with empty and bloody hands in Egypt (undermining Hosni Mubarak) Syria (allowing chemical weapons and slaughter) and Libya (more carnage).

No, Trump will not follow Obama’s lead — constantly to antagonize, hamstring and chastise Israel while aiding the ayatollahs of Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood.

If he’s really smart, Trump will pivot away from what the Arabs call al-qadiyya al-felastiniyya — the Palestinian cause.

He will understand that “the two-state solution” is just hot air because the Palestinians have had lots of chances to build a state, and they’ve thrown them away. Even today, they have a state in Gaza and a partial state in the West Bank, but they are failed states in every sense.

The Palestinian road is a dead end for many reasons. Palestinian leaders, as Abba Eban once observed, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Behind the fluffy talk from PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, there is a Palestinian gun, a Palestinian bomb — all paid for by Abbas. Dr. Abbas wrote a “doctorate” in Moscow about “Zionist ties” to the Nazis.

Dr. Abbas studied disinformation at the KGB’s Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. There is a reason he was chosen to fill the shoes of Yasser Arafat.

Abbas always talks about Israel’s “racist wall” that prevents some terror infiltration. But the problem is a Palestinian wall, not an Israeli wall. The Palestinian wall is a mental barrier that prevents any serious long-term acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

That is because the Palestinian establishment sees its “Palestinian” nationalism in zero-sum terms. It cannot accept Jews as builders of a state, authors of a nationalism, but only as a religion, which, they hope, will be dominated by Muslims.

“Zionism” — Jewish nationalism — is a dirty word in the Palestinian Arab lexicon: al-sihyouniyya. Calling someone sihyouni — Zionist — is the ultimate insult.

The Palestinian establishment defines Palestine as the non-Israel, the antithesis of Israel. Rather than spending their time and energy building their own community or state, they — Abbas and Hamas — try to rip down Israel. Whether it’s Hamas bombs or Abbas-led boycotts, the object is the same: tear down Israel.

They create a phony history of themselves as descendants of Canaanites or Philistines or whatever– anything to try to usurp or top Jewish ties to Israel. That is why Abbas, like Arafat, talks about al-heikal al-yahudi al-mazoum — “the supposed Jewish temple.”

Any attempt by President Trump to placate the Palestinians will lead Trump to a dead-end, or worse. Under Obama, trying to placate the PLO destroyed the PLO-Israel dialogue.

Many of the Arab leaders in the region realize that “the Palestinian cause” was a dead end for them, too. They spent money and blood, and lost wars and wounded their own societies.

The Palestinian cause was a false icon that seemed to unite them in the 1940s through the 1960s under the flag of qawmiyya — pan-Arab nationalism.

This nationalistic fervor kept some leaders in power, but it built few bridges and few water-treatment plants. This phony nationalism sapped all their creative energies.

That is why Arab states did not come to the aid of Hamas when it or when Iranian-aided Hezbollah attacked Israel. The Arab states realize that the real threat comes from terrorism and tyranny made by Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS/ISIL etc.

Israel, which has defeated these dangers before, makes a great ally — as reliable as Britain or Canada — but with a Hebrew accent and more initiative.

If Trump can spot a good investment, he will try to use Israel’s strength and strategic position to help stabilize America’s other allies in the region (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) while promoting America’s economic, military and strategic interests.

This article was originally published by AIM — Accuracy in Media. 

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