Don’t Let the ‘What Ifs’ Scare Us
These are exciting times in Israel — economically, militarily and diplomatically. Yet, no matter how successful we might be on a certain front, there will be those want to ignore the good things, and point to the inevitable negative consequences that will come of that success.
Two current examples of life in Israel exemplify this syndrome. The first is the, “okay so Trump likes us, but who knows what will come after him” anxiety condition. The second is the widespread fear that “all those Christian Evangelical Zionists are really just out to convert us.”
In the first case, we are warned that identifying with the supportive policies of a polarizing US president could be held against us by his successor.
This, of course, presupposes that we know his successor will seek to reverse whatever support the Trump administration has provided to Israel. It also makes the mistake of thinking we can predict the future.
In the second case, there is a focus on the possible downside of what is currently and foreseeably a highly beneficial posture and very supportive behavior.
What are we to do with this mindset? To me, it is one of those residuals of the galut (exile) mentality. The presumption is that things are destined to go badly, and so why bring that upon ourselves? Better to keep our heads down, not attract too much attention (or support for that matter), and just hope that everything passes us by without too much impact.
Trump has been remarkably supportive of Israel. His appointment of David Friedman would have been at the top of every Zionist’s wish list. The announcement of the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the consequential triggering of the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, is a breathtaking and historic step.
And what about the fears? First, we don’t know that Trump’s successor will be anti-Israel. Professor Mark Lilla at Columbia, an unabashed liberal, writes trenchantly that the Democrats cannot hope to return to national power unless and until they drop their divisive obsession with identity politics. So, the successor that follows Trump might not actually have different views on Israel.
In addition, Trump’s decision will have ripple effects on other countries that will follow suit, and this — and the very passage of time — will create a reality that will be hard to reverse.
In terms of Evangelical Christian support for Israel, I am reminded of the great Ed Koch’s “One Question Rule.” When asked about his feelings concerning Evangelical support for Israel, Koch said that when the Messiah comes we will ask him just one question: “Is this your first time or your second time?” Depending on what he answers, Koch said, we will take our cues accordingly. Until then, concluded Koch, he was happy for Evangelical support.
As a proud Jew, I am not worried about a Christian waving a New Testament at me and turning me into a Christian. Do I think they have an ulterior reason for their support? Possibly. But I’m not worried about it. And for many Evangelicals, support for Jews and Israel is a simply an expression of gratitude for having given them pretty much their entire roster of sacred and important figures.
In the meantime, Evangelical Christian support is far more full-throated, unambiguous and unapologetic than a lot of Jewish support for Israel. We should embrace it, not run from it.
As we approach our 70th anniversary as the sole Jewish state on the planet, we are well advised to remember the “what ifs” that bombarded Ben-Gurion and the Yishuv leadership right up to the historic Declaration of Independence: What if the Arabs attack us (they did), what if the world rejects us (most did), what if we can’t make a go of it (we, of course, did)?
The simple lesson is that while many are so certain of what the consequences of our actions will be, they are clueless about the consequences of our inactions. What Ben-Gurion and our founding fathers taught us is that if we have the conviction of the rightness, the justice, and the decency and appropriateness of our actions, then we have the potential to create a reality that will validate those actions.
Waiting, refraining and abstaining is sometimes prudent, but more often is tragic in its failure to seize the moment, to change reality, and to create a better situation.
As we approach our auspicious anniversary of freedom, let us embrace the willingness to make our own destiny, to seize opportunities designed to advance our interests, and to act with the conviction that our success should not be a source of embarrassment nor doubt.
Mr. Altabef is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]