A Historian Reflects on American Jewry’s Political Future

In a wide-ranging interview, the historian Jonathan Sarna discusses American Jews’ relationship with Israel, the changing role of the major denominations, the recent presidential election, and whether U.S. Jewry will maintain its long-standing alliance with the Democratic party. (Interview by Dror Eydar.)

The truth is that anyone who studies Jewish history knows that the extremes on both sides are dangerous for Jews. Very often, there is a convergence of the extreme left and extreme right. My concern is that this election has given certain fodder to the extremes. Hillary Clinton was trying to find a more centrist path. The failure of that path has led some elements in her party to say that this was a big mistake, and that they should have run a campaign aimed at the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party, which would have focused on real change, and would have succeeded, in their opinion. I am not sure that is true. Those people, whether you are talking about Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren or Representative Keith Ellison, are very [hostile] toward Israel, although some of their domestic proposals find favor in the eyes of many American Jews.

It will be very interesting to see four years from now which wing of the Democratic party wins. I would not be surprised if the somewhat anti-Israel left-wing rises. Then it would be very interesting to see which Jews say they absolutely cannot vote for its candidates and which Jews say, “I am an American citizen and I better agree with the domestic policies of these candidates. Nor am I fond of Israel’s policies.”

I expect that Jews would tend in both directions. I would be very surprised if in the 21st century the Jewish community is as strongly Democratic as it has been for the 80 years or so since Al Smith, [the Democratic nominee who lost the 1928 elections to Herbert Hoover]. My guess is that in the years ahead, we will see a voting pattern among Jews similar to that of the 19th century, when everybody understood that the Jews were divided politically and that they were also willing to shift back and forth depending on the candidate.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: American Jewry, American politics, Democrats, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jewish politics

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy