One has to give credit to the Israeli cunning and doggedness which have enabled it to maintain a vice-like grip on the US government, but more far-sighted Jews are worried about the writing on the wall.
I remember meeting, many years ago at a conference in Jackson Hole in the Rockies, the Israeli politician Yossi Sarid and listening to his wishes and plans for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between his compatriots and the Palestinians. He was an earnest advocate for a fair and comprehensive settlement between the various religious communities, but history so far has not gone his way. Yossi Sarid is no more and on 14 May I watched his son Yishai being interviewed on TV shortly after the ceremony marking the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. During that time, thousands of unarmed Palestinian protestors were being shot by Israeli snipers outside the Israeli self-declared border.
Yishai is a novelist and like his father, he nourishes the hope that someday there will be an accommodation between the Jews and the Arabs, although his vision of Israel’s future is gloomy. In one of his novels, The Third, he describes Israel, decades from now, as a theocratic Jewish monarchy that has expelled all non-Hebrews and rebuilt Solomon’s Temple on its original location. Yishai is distressed that the left-wing secularism of Israel’s founders has retreated before the religious exclusivism of the militant Zionists who dominate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. The Prime Minister’s father was a believer in the “Bible Code”, a cryptogrammatic decipherment of stray passages of the Old Testament which read in them predictions for the short-term future and convinced its votaries that Saddam Hussein had to be overthrown as otherwise Iraq would destroy Israel.
Netanyahu was heavily influenced by his father’s conviction. He clamorously called for the invasion of Iraq, swearing that the Baghdad regime posed a mortal danger to human civilisation. Bibi is now back at it with Iran and, still gloating about the “success” of the US war on Iraq he got Trump to sign on his policy of strangling Tehran into submission to the Washington-Tel Aviv-Riyadh axis.
The function held on 14 May to open the US mission in Jerusalem was emblematic of an odd alliance between uber-Zionists and white supremacists. Jared and Ivanka Kushner, close friends of the Israeli Premier, were there along with the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. Jared and Ivanka paid their respect to an Israeli rabbi who once called Africans monkeys. The gathering personified the formidable league between Washington DC, Wall Street and Las Vegas behind the Likud-led regime. The blessings were given by televangelist pastor Robert Jeffress, another Trump supporter, famous for saying that all those who are not “Born Again” into Evangelism will go to hell. Islam, he thundered more than once, is a false religion inspired by Satan himself. Jews are also doomed unless they convert, he teaches. That will happen at the Second Coming before which Zion must be recognised as the Eternal Capital of Israel, the Kingdom of the Chosen. His fellow pastor John Hagee explained recently to a bemused Christiane Amanpour on CNN that “God’s foreign policy” requires that Israel be given full control of the region to pave the way for Armageddon and the conversion of heathens and pagans.
Is Trump a convert to this mumbo jumbo? Does he believe as many Christian Zionists that he is Jehovah’s own “blunt instrument” to herald the Lord’s return? Those who know the President smile wryly and point out that for him God is called Donald Trump and that his main concern is to be acknowledged as the greatest POTUS ever. He has no ideology or programme except for cutting taxes, pleasing the crowds that support him and affirming America’s supremacy on the world, although he does not like spending money on troops abroad or foreign wars.
Trump is a creature of advertising, self-promotion, deceit and bluff. He has practised those tactics throughout his business career without really having a strategy. He has the same attitude to governance, which accounts for the chaos in the White House, in which he thrives, as it enables him to keep everyone else off-balance, while enjoying the stress, the conflict and the arguments to alleviate the chronic boredom that this hyperactive, insomniac septuagenarian is prey to, unable to concentrate, read or even think for any length of time. He is as secretive about his health as he is about his finances, as he does not wish the public to know what medications he is under. He relies on private bodyguards for his personal safety, perhaps well advisedly.
Trump came to power with few ideas which he realised would be welcomed by many people, frustrated by the rapid decline of the country under George Bush Jr and Barack Obama. However, when he met dogged Establishment opposition to many of his better intuitions, the new President quickly forgot about them. He never read or understood the “Iran Nuclear Deal”, but had been told that it was “very bad” because it made Iran strong enough to remain a problem for Israel and for Saudi Arabia, which Trump sees as a cash cow for the US economy and for his own family projects. So his objections to it are not in good faith and he decided to go all out against the JCPOA, at the cost of the Europeans and other allies whom he never liked anyway as he regards them as limp-wristed socialists; he is aware that their leaders don’t have regard for him and that is a further reason to give Europe a hard time. On the other hand, he respects China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin because he views them as what he would like to be, a dictator whose writ runs unchallenged. Trump knows that, behind his tough talk concessions to China win lucrative opportunities for himself and his relatives.
A veteran of the cut-throat, Mob-infested New York construction industry, the President does not believe a deal is good for him unless the other side suffers loss and humiliation. In his winner-takes-all-philosophy there is no good fight without blood and he is applying that principle in foreign policy. He knows that the Europeans will lose a lot from the cancellation of the Iran agreement, as they lost from US-driven sanctions on Russia. That this may enable the US to reap benefits by forcing Iran in the future to give most of its business to American companies. The same calculus is at work with North Korea. Unilateral US sanctions can hurt major economies that pose a potential threat to American dominance and so China, Japan and India are targets like the EU. Trump’s approach to economics harks back to the classical mercantilist theory, which holds that one must beggar one’s neighbours to grow richer. A former Mexican President has said recently that Trump wants to take down NAFTA so that he may impose new bilateral agreements on Mexico and Canada, more advantageous to the US. Ditto for the Transpacific Partnership.
There was hope that Trump, who prefers money to war, would not start a new foreign conflict, unlike the bellicose Hillary Clinton ideologically wedded to the Imperial System, but that assumption rests on a tenuous premise since the President surrounded himself with neo-cons like John Bolton and Nikki Haley. There is growing evidence that he has lost the apparent independence of mind he brought to the White House. The Stormy Daniels imbroglio bears the marks of a “honey trap” laid to compromise an unreliable President through his intimate consigliere of many years, Michael Cohen. The latter paid $130,000 in hush money to the porn actress three weeks before the 2016 presidential election and was more than reimbursed by wire transfers amounting to $500,000, according to New York Times and Haaretz reports, from a company controlled by the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a partner and friend of the billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, who is one of Netanyahu’s close associates. By leaving their footprints all over the affair, probably without Trump’s personal knowledge, and getting Stormy to sing on cue, the clever operators made sure that they held him at ransom.
Does Russiagate in fact open on to a government which is not in Moscow but uses Russia as a proxy for some of its covert ops in US politics? It was alleged that Cohen paid off other one-night stands hired by the ageing future President, so more scandals could well erupt. There are many murky financial transactions in Trump’s past, but blackmail about clandestine paid sex is a tested method to keep a chief executive under control.
One has to give credit to the Israeli cunning and doggedness which have enabled it, through such means to maintain a vice-like grip on the US government, but more far-sighted Jews are worried about the writing on the wall. In a recent interview, a former Mossad head, Meir Dagan pointed out that demography and the geography of the Near East conspire to soon reduce Israeli Jews to a minority in an occupied land. The current political system will not be tenable and the “One State Solution” may bring about its dissolution. Dagan, as a realist, does not believe either in the ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions or massacres of Palestinians envisioned by the Far Right. Meanwhile, however, Trump seems to jump whenever Bibi whistles and effectively guarantees legal immunity to Israel in any and all of its actions, since he shares with them the conviction that the only right belongs to might.