A Zionist Weighs in on Trump's Israel Stance

A Zionist Weighs in on Trump's Israel Stance

A Palestinian man sits near Israel's controversial separation barrier dividing the Palestinian neighborhood of Al-Tur in the Israeli annexed East Jerusalem with the West Bank, on February 11, 2016.

SourceThomas Coex/Getty

Why you should care

Because this is the dawn of a new approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Last month, the UN condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements. By allowing the resolution to pass, the United States won acclaim from those who believe the settlements violate international law and human rights. The U.S. also provoked fury among those who believe the resolution emboldens terrorists and jeopardizes Israel’s status as a Jewish homeland.

Some of the harshest language came from Morton A. Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States. The longtime Obama critic accused the outgoing president of being a “Jew-hating anti-Semite.” No surprise that Klein, and other Zionists, are champing at the bit for Donald J. Trump’s inauguration this month. (It might, however, be a surprise that in his youth, Klein was a George McGovern supporter with hair down to his shoulders.)

What does Klein expect from the Trump administration and the future of US-Israel relations? We caught up with him at his home in Boca Raton to find out. Our interview has been edited.

What are the implications of the U.N. resolution?

It has given enormous power to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses. Now they’ll be screaming that Israel is violating international law. The Arabs will feel encouraged. But the resolution has also galvanized most Jews, even those who are liberal, to say this is an outrage. They’ve lost sympathy for liberal Democrats like Obama and will now be more inclined to accept rational centrist positions they would have refused only a week ago.

… the resolution has also galvanized most Jews, even those who are liberal, to say this is an outrage.

Are the settlements an impediment to peace?

There have been illegal outposts — that Israel has not stopped — where a few hundred people live, but it’s tiny. We can get rid of them in two seconds. The impediment is that the Arabs don’t want to accept a Jewish state and agree to no further claims. This is not a conflict about land or boundaries. If it were they would have had a state five times.

Is there a solution to this nearly 70-year-old conflict?

I believe you really have to crush the Palestinian Authority (PA), so they know they have no way to get anything. The world has to say to the PA: “We’ll support Israel in any way it deems appropriate and cut all aid to you unless you change your promotion of hatred and violence.”

What do you expect from David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel?

I’m proud to say David is a personal friend of mine. He’s very smart; he understands Israel’s defense needs, he understands Jerusalem is not holy to Muslims, so there’s no reason to give them any part. This administration will say it should be Israel that determines its policies toward the Palestinian Arabs, and we should not interfere in that. If we think it’s something horrific, we should discuss it privately, but not publicly chastise them.

What will happen if Trump moves the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as he’s said he would?

Initially the Arab world will be screaming, because they think politically they have to, but I don’t think they really give a damn….Their biggest fear is of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and they know Israel can help them with that.

What do you make of the increase of anti-Semitic acts in the U.S. since Trump’s election?

Trump loves Jews and Israel. [Trump’s chief strategist Stephen] Bannon loves Jews and Israel. Trump’s daughter and grandchildren are Orthodox Jews. I don’t know why there’s been an increase. But I think it’s important for Trump to make a major policy speech condemning racism and anti-Semitism in all its forms and to make it clear we’re going to crack down on this.

How do you address the continued high rates of intermarriage among non-Orthodox Jews?

This is one of the most serious issues facing Jews. Less than 10 percent of Jews really believe in the Bible in a serious way — and the closer you are to serious Judaism and the Torah, the more likely you are to be supportive of Israel. There needs to be a big push to expand Jewish day schools and summer camps. Parents need to make it clear that marrying outside the faith, unless the person converts, is an unforgivable outrage. We told our daughter if you marry outside the faith, we will probably have nothing to do with you anymore.

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