DONALD TRUMP May yet turn out to be one of the best presidents ever for Jews
By: Dave Gordon
Whether you believe the US presidential results were a lucky break, a relief, or a source of frustration, all eyes now will be on Donald Trump. As a community, we wonder what the ramifications of his policies will be and how they’ll affect the causes dearest to us.
Strong on the Israel front, Trump has vowed to stand with the Jewish State and against Islamic terror.
For some Americans, a Trump administration will mean a noticeable change in medical and hospital rates. Calling the Affordable Health Care Act a “disaster,” Trump said he would dismantle it, ushering in what may be lower premiums.
For lower income Americans, there’ll be some tax relief in what many refer to as an overhaul in the tax code. Expect some deregulation in business and corporations, as well as tax penalties for US companies that have left for overseas.
In terms of foreign policy, Trump said the US would fight ISIS and renegotiate trade agreements, such as NAFTA.
Trump’s presidency is likely to bring other changes as well, including a re-examination of the Obama-backed Iran nuclear deal, billions in federal funding for school choice, a sea change of unwavering support for Israel, and a hardline re-evaluation of immigration policy.
There is a possibility that Trump can nominate up to three Supreme Court Justices during his tenure, as two are very elderly and one has passed on. He’ll be charged with the replacement of Justice Antonin Scalia in the first few months of 2017. The Republican majority Senate will surely confirm these appointments, unless the choices tilt more on the liberal side. During the Trump administration and for several decades hence, inevitably America will have a continued majority of conservative-leaning or
Trump’s Top Picks
Trump has already chosen a Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, and Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. Bannon is seen by the left as a controversial figure, whose website – Breitbart News – has printed scores of pro-Israel articles.
Despite his estranged ex-wife accusing Bannon of being an
anti-Semite, several prominent Jews have come out to vehemently refute the charge. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, British columnist
Melanie Phillips, civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz, noted author on
anti-Semitism Dennis Prager, and Brietbart editor (and Orthodox Jew)
Joel Pollak, all have endorsed or defended Bannon. In November, Bannon was welcomed by the Zionist Organization
of America at their annual dinner.
Meanwhile, Breitbart Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein told radio host John Batchelor that Bannon insisted and encouraged the coverage of stories pertaining to anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on campuses. “Steve Bannon has been described repeatedly by those who know him well as an ardent Zionist and one who
is overly-sensitive to anti-Semitic claims
by others,” said Lori Lowenthal Marcus, co-chair of JewsChooseTrump.org. “JewsChooseTrump.org is thrilled to have an ardent supporter of a strong Israel and a strong America in the White House.”
On the topic of hardline Muslims, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was tapped as president-elect Donald Trump’s national security advisor, has said that Islam is “like cancer” and labeled it a “political ideology.” He further said, “It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. And I have a very, very tough time because I don’t see a lot of people [of any religious faith] screaming with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, literally axing families on a train. They just killed a couple of police officers with a machete. It’s unbelievable. So we have a problem.”
With regard to the selection of Rep. Mike Pompeo as the next director of the CIA, the Republican Jewish Coalition called it “a wonderful choice.” “Throughout his years of public service, Rep. Pompeo has been a friend of American Jews and a true friend of Israel. His staunch opposition to the Iran nuclear deal shows he takes our interests to heart and we are proud to support him.”
It is likely that Trump will appoint Jason Greenblatt to be either an advisor on Israel relations or the US Ambassador to Israel. Greenblatt, who formerly worked for Trump as a real estate attorney, is an Orthodox Jew and Yeshiva University graduate who studied at a West Bank yeshiva in the 1980s. He has stated publicly that he supports a two-state solution, but noted that Trump is more laissez-faire in his approach to building peace. Greenblatt told Israel’s Army Radio that Trump will not impose any solution on Israel, and that he does not view Jewish homes outside the Green Line as an obstacle to peace.
Trump may also name bankruptcy expert David Friedman an Israel adviser. Friedman is Trump’s longtime attorney, the son of a Conservative rabbi with a family history of Republican ties. The newspaper Haaretz reports that Friedman owns a house in Jerusalem’s Talbiyeh neighborhood. Contrary to Greenblatt, Friedman does not believe a two-state solution is the only answer to peace and has said that annexing the West Bank would not damage Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
As Jews, we can take heart. Throughout the campaign and his career, Trump has surrounded himself with Jewish advisors and aides. Republican political strategist and New York investment banker Boris Epshteyn, 34, has appeared in the media more than a hundred times defending Trump. Stephen Miller, 30, wrote speeches for Trump, including the one for the Republican National Convention and touts himself as “important” in the campaign. Former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin worked as Trump’s national finance chairman. Lewis Eisenberg, private equity chief for Granite Capital International Group, helped raised heaps of campaign funds for Trump. And finally, Michael Glassner assisted the campaign, utilizing his experience with politicians such as John McCain, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin.
While the Obama administration has been at odds with the current Israeli government’s positions, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have more in common than not – including being close friends.
Affordable Health Care Act
The Affordable Health Care Act has been a signature of President Obama’s administration and a key target of Trump’s; he vowed to repeal it. It is now likely that key elements of the act will remain – such as healthcare for those with pre-existing conditions and for adult children living at home until age 26. Predictions indicate that it will be at least two years before those on Obamacare can make the transition to join other plans.
Economy and Jobs
Economically, the Trump win was good news for the stock market and investment trades. They experienced a noticeable boost
Trump promised to bring jobs back to America, expressing deep concern that manufacturing jobs have fled to Mexico and China over the course of a generation. Robert Scott at the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the US lost about 800,000 jobs to Mexico between 1997 and 2013, placing the blame on NAFTA – an agreement that is often the object of Trump’s scorn. A competing statistic from CNN last March says that some five million jobs have left America for Mexico since 2000.
Labor economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson, published a study called “The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade.” It outlines the heavy toll outsourcing to China took on American jobs and its economy. The downturn was confirmed by a Harvard Business School study in 2011.
To reverse the trend, Trump has hinted that there will be lower corporate tax rates for businesses, an added incentive for them to stay. Additionally, in the first televised Trump/Clinton debate, the President-Elect stated that he would tax or tariff imported products from American companies who moved their businesses overseas. Such a tax would be so designed to deter businesses from leaving the US and encourage those who did to return.
The outcome of this election has been a game changer for Wall Street and financial regulators, some of whom have already begun leaving their positions, including Mary Jo White, the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Trump said he would dismantle Dodd-Frank, the financial regulatory overhaul Congress passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
Iran Nuclear Arms Agreement
Trump vowed to dismantle, “revisit or even tear up” the “disastrous” Iran Nuclear Arms Agreement. It would be on his to-do list early in his presidency. Leaders in Europe and Russia, however, say they are committed to the agreement.
One prominent American political consultant said that the treaty, which has since been violated by Iran in both spirit and letter, has a legitimate “out” for signatories.
Former United States Ambassador to the UN John Bolton recently said that the Iran agreement “is not a legal document”, but rather a “deal” that could be reshaped – which Trump seeks to do in favor of harsher penalties against Iran.
Last March, at the AIPAC policy conference, Trump explained, “We’ve rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion, and we received absolutely nothing in return.
The biggest concern with the deal is not necessarily that Iran is going to violate it because already, it has. The bigger problem is that they can keep the terms and still get the bomb by simply running out the clock. The deal doesn’t even require Iran to dismantle its military nuclear capability… Iran will have an industrial-sized, military nuclear capability ready to go and with zero provision for delay, no matter how bad Iran’s behavior is.”
On the topic of Iran, Trump noted that the Islamic Republic’s support of global terrorism is “a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Lebanon, a problem in Yemen, and will be a very, very major problem for Saudi Arabia. Literally every day, Iran provides more and better weapons to support their puppet states.”
Some of those weapons, he explained, were anti-ship weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, and rockets “like very few people anywhere in the world and certainly very few countries have.”
“Iran has seeded terror groups all over the world. During the last five years, Iran has perpetuated terror attacks in 25 different countries on five continents. They’ve got terror cells everywhere, including in the Western Hemisphere, very close to home.” In ambiguous terms, Trump stated that he would “stand up” against Iran’s influence in these and other states.
Trump also said that any Iranian vessels that harass the US Navy in the Persian Gulf would be “shot out of the water.”
On November 11, Trump said he sought to abandon the American effort to support “moderate” opposition groups in Syria, who are battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, saying “we have no idea who these people are.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump would seek more collaboration with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
As he told The New York Times in an interview in March, “our far greater problem is not Assad; it’s ISIS.”
During his campaign, Trump vowed to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. Elaborating on the topic during a 60 Minutes television interview on November 13, Trump said he would deport undocumented workers that are convicted criminals.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people – probably two million, it could be even three million – we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he declared, noting that most of these law breakers are here illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Migration Policy Institute, said there are nearly two million “removable criminal aliens” in the US, including non-citizens and undocumented immigrants. Some 820,000 are undocumented immigrants convicted of a crime.
It should be noted that President Obama deported more than two million people during his administration.
During his campaign, Trump also said he would build a wall between the US and Mexico to halt illegal immigration.
The US-Mexico border is about 1,900 miles long and traverses varying terrain, from empty, dusty desert to the lush and rugged surroundings of the Rio Grande. Some 650 miles of the border is covered already by a confused and non-continuous series of fences, concrete slabs, and other structures. Trump says his wall will cover 1,000 miles and natural obstacles will take care of the rest.
However, Trump has since updated his plan, explaining on
60 Minutes that fences would be agreeable in some places.
There are likely to be lawsuits and environmental reviews that occur before a wall can be established, a process that would take years. In Texas, much of the land is privately owned, and there is Native Tribal land along the border. Plans for the wall must also take into account the delicate ecosystem, animal and bird migration patterns, and the damage to the landscape.
What can we expect from Trump in terms of Middle East policy, his stance on peace, a Palestinian State, and Jews living outside the Green Line?
Trump has declared his lifelong support for Israel and given the proof – everything from being the grand marshal of the Israel Day Parade in 2004, to his generosity to Jewish charities, to being an outspoken critic of the UN’s mistreatment of Israel, to speaking out against Palestinian terrorism. He also vowed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Per the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he said at AIPAC: “Deals are made when parties come together, they come to a table and they negotiate.” Forcing a deal would only “legitimize terrorism” he said.
Trump told Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily newspaper, that the Jewish state is a “beacon of hope.” He vowed to help the country make peace with the Palestinians without imposing solutions. Trump noted that while America might play a role in what transpires, the peace deal would need to be directly negotiated between the two sides rather than imposed by outside parties.
Ofir Akunis, Israel’s science minister and a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said that a Trump White House will not admonish Jews living in Judea and Samaria, or “settlements.”
Criticism, in contrast, will redirect to Palestinian recalcitrance and hateful rhetoric. “Every single day you have rampant incitement and children being taught to hate Israel and to hate the Jews. It has to stop. But when the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially,” Trump said.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nik Barkat, and
Prime Minister Netanyahu were enthusiastic in sending President-elect Trump their congratulations.
As reported by Business Insider in September, Trump pledged to invest $20 billion in school choice, which he says will allow children to have better options in terms of education and enable students to more easily afford non-public school tuition.
A fan of charter schools and vouchers, as outlined on the campaign website, Trump’s contention is that a “free market would improve the entire system.”
“There’s no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly,” Trump said at a Cleveland, Ohio campaign speech. A vocal critic of teachers’ unions, he decried the “competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall,” as explained in his book The America We Deserve.
Ultimately, is Donald Trump good for the Jewish people
and for our community?
Granted, Donald Trump might not be able to fulfill all, or even most, of his campaign promises, but on the issues of importance to our community, he has made clear where he stands: strong on Israel, firmly against Islamic terrorism, and supportive of school choice.
Will everything fall into place as planned? Like any governmental undertaking, a number of hurdles may need to be overcome, such as pending bureaucracy, the barriers of overriding existing legislation, resistance from Democrats, foot dragging, and the fallout of realpolitik – actions taken based on practical, rather than moral or ideological considerations.
It’s both a “wait and see” and “hope for the best” attitude that has permeated the American psyche since the stunning and surprising victory of Donald Trump on Election Day. As a community we will do just that – wait and see, hope the best, and pray that Hashem is behind us.