After AIPAC, Balancing Bipartisanship and Being Thankful
King Solomon provides an important lesson about the Jewish concept of gratitude, hakarat hatov, in the Book of Proverbs.
“Evil will never depart from the home of one who repays good with evil,” Solomon wrote.
That verse is the ultimate statement of God’s commitment to a just world, and the ultimate challenge to humanity in general and the Jewish people in particular.
If we are commanded to be grateful and threatened so harshly if we are not, it is important to examine our individual behavior and that of the Jewish people as a whole.
This is true when it comes to politics in Washington, especially recently, when some 18,000 Jews gathered in Washington, DC for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference to demonstrate their unwavering support for Israel.
Attending this year’s conference, it was clear that many of the attendees are facing moral and strategic dilemmas due to the nuances of American and Israeli political realities.
Even the harshest critics of President Donald Trump admit that what he has done for Israel over the past two and a half years is extraordinary and unequaled. Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, fighting for Israel at the United Nations, and now recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights are foremost among his game-changing steps that must be appreciated.
The people who aren’t showing gratitude to Trump have good reasons. They believe he has not done enough to stop the rhetoric that they believe has led to antisemitism, like the horrible massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Many are not able to compartmentalize their support for Trump’s Israel policies if they are disgusted by his policies on other issues that they care about, and by Trump’s personal behavior.
Some of them even say we should not applaud the steps the president has taken too loudly, because it could alienate his Democratic opponents. After all, bipartisanship is Israel’s top strategic asset.
That attitude goes against what Solomon wrote.
The truth is that even Israel advocates who despise President Trump have an obligation to thank him loud and clear. A true friend of Israel would not silence our gratitude.
The people who oppose bipartisanship also have good reasons. They believe the Democrats haven’t done enough to distance and discipline the antisemites in their party. The Democratic candidates who gave in to pressure to boycott the conference reinforced those legitimate fears.
There are also those on the Republican side who think bipartisanship is no longer necessary, because Trump and others in his party are so pro-Israel when compared with Democratic presidential contenders, many of whom have unfairly criticized Israel and allowed antisemitism to raise its ugly head unchecked.
But that also goes against Proverbs.
Bipartisanship has served Israel well for decades. A true friend of Israel would not suggest giving it up.
The needs for bipartisanship and gratitude do not cancel each other out. They go hand in hand, even at a time of severe polarization in America and Israel.
This delicate balancing act between gratitude and bipartisanship is definitely a challenge, but it is a welcome one. It is so much better than what Jewish communities around the world have endured for centuries, with little to be thankful for and no party to cheer for. Showing gratitude for Israel’s bipartisan relationship with Washington is a good way of fulfilling Solomon’s advice that good will be repaid with more good.
May the State of Israel be the kind of home for the Jewish people that avoids all evil and merits true goodness, justice, and peace. May we always be relentless and unified in that effort.
Martin Oliner is the co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency.