(January 29, 2021 / JNS) It seems likely that Donald Trump will be judged the worst president in American history. Yet, ironically, he is also likely to be remembered as the best president for Israel since Harry Truman recognized the fledgling Jewish state moments after its Proclamation of Independence on May 14, 1948.
The gifts to Israel from former President Trump are well-known and, depending on whether one embraces or criticizes the Jewish state (and Trump), either deeply appreciated or sharply criticized. They include recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, providing Israel with vital protection on its northern border; the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing its capital that dates as far back as King David’s rule; and de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.
Seldom noted among Trump’s gift packages is his bold 2018 decision to defund rather than defend UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Administration established by the United Nations in 1949 for “the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.” Over time, however, its laudable original mission of financial support for Palestinian refugees in the Arab war to annihilate Israel at its birth in 1948 (an estimated 30,000 of whom are still alive) has morphed into funding the descendants of refugees, now numbering 5 million and guaranteed to increase unto eternity.
The Palestinian refugee scam is unmatched in history for any other suffering people—least of all for descendants of 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. UNRWA is the only U.N. agency authorized to help a particular group of refugees. Ironically, there are now as many UNRWA employees as there are living Palestinian refugees.
In August 2018, the Trump administration—specifically, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a Middle East adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—cut American funding of UNRWA from $364 million to $60 million. The U.N. organization was predictably upset at the severe harm to its (self-described) “steadfast commitment to preserving dignity and opportunities” for its recipients and “life-saving humanitarian work.”
A chorus of complaints erupted. Hady Amr, the deputy special envoy of Israel-Palestinian relations in the Obama administration, led the way. In a perversion of linkage, he stated: “Jews and Palestinians both have deep, unshakable attachments to the Holy Land.” He seems unaware that there were no self-identified “Palestinians”—only Palestinian Arabs—until there was a Jewish state.
Furthermore, according to Amr, “both peoples have experienced deep levels of collective and individual trauma,” thereby equating 700,000 Palestinian refugees who fled from their land with 6 million Jews who were systematically murdered.
Finally, for Amr, Israelis and Palestinians “have passionate attachments to the holy places in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land.” True enough, though he avoids mention of Arab control over the Machpelah burial site for the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs in Hebron; and over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where, as its name indicates, the first Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. Its replacement came five centuries later—more than a millennium before the appearance of Muhammad (on his flying horse Boraq) and Islam.
Within a week of Joe Biden’s inauguration, The New York Times reported that his new administration was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees. According to U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills, this “remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security.” A two-state solution, which Palestinians have repeatedly rejected, will enable Israel to live “in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state.”
Based on decades of evidence to the contrary, which seems to be ignored by Biden and Mills, there is little likelihood that any favors from the Biden administration will persuade the Palestinian Authority to be amenable to a neighboring Jewish state. That is the equivalent of Israel’s imagined willingness to relinquish the biblical homeland of the Jewish people to Palestinians. Whether President Joe Biden can accept reality remains to be seen.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel and “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016,” which was recently selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book” for 2019.
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