Opinion |

Were With Trump and Netanyahu

They may be meshugga, but they're one of us. They think like Jews

Israel Cohen
Israel Cohen
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U.S. President Donald Trump embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, May 23, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, May 23, 2017Credit: STEPHEN CROWLEY / NYT
Israel Cohen
Israel Cohen

For the ultra-Orthodox Jews who danced in the streets of Brooklyn, U.S. President Donald Trump is almost the Messiah. They genuinely revere him. Thousands of Jews sang Hasidic melodies and waved Republican flags to express appreciation for Trumps having commuted the 27-year federal prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, a member of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement, in December. President Barack Obama had refused to release him. Trump did. Obama supported the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump wants to revoke it. Obama wanted to force territorial withdrawals on Israel, Trump is moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

For many Orthodox Jews in America, it doesnt matter that Trump is far from stable, that he speaks crudely about women, that he is hostile to immigrants and is sowing division among Americans. He may be meshugga, but hes one of us. He thinks like a Jew.

This is the traditional Diaspora Jewish outlook. Ignore the emperors indiscretions, close your eyes to the rulers craziness. Dont mind if he robs and oppresses, if he indulges in grandiose and outrageous behavior, as long as he protects the ghetto. As long as the needs of the shtetl are met. The important thing is that the synagogues can keep running, that the communitys needs are met, that the sound of Torah can still be heard in the streets.

The authentic Haredi outlook in Israel is similar. We [Haredim] are in exile among Jews, its leaders proclaim aloud. Why should we be concerned with everyone else? Let us maintain our independent Haredi education, let us look after our children in the heder and let us build yeshivas, and just leave us in peace.

This is why you wont hear any Haredi public figures openly criticizing the Netanyahu familys hedonistic behavior. The Israeli prime minister, as the Jewish states top representative, might be expected not to publicly desecrate Shabbat or to hold official meetings on Jewish holidays, but anything he or his family does in private is their own business. Why should we care about Yair Netanyahus debauched romps in Tel Aviv, sin city, as long as we can go on studying, undisturbed, next door in Bnei Brak?

After the passage of the so-called supermarket law, a poll conducted by the Maariv newspaper gave Yair Lapids Yesh Atid party 27 Knesset seats, compared to its 11 MKs today. Lapid is the biggest disaster that ever happened to Haredi Jewry. On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu and his current government are its salvation. We must do everything to see that this government survives and that Netanyahu emerges unscathed from all the investigations surrounding him.

And as for all those leftists tsk-tsking in indignation and thinking: You call this Judaism? Protecting a prime minister suspected of bribery? Where are the moral values? Whatever happened to ethics? Well, could they be any more hypocritical? These are the same people who were keen to coddle Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. They are the same ones who proposed, on the pages of this newspaper, that Netanyahus government should be propped up if he would only deign to take steps toward peace negotiations.

So its okay for peace, but not for Torah? Clearly, theres no argument about the principle. Its all about the justness of the cause. For the left, its concessions to the Palestinians that matter. For the Haredim, its other values. So dont go preaching to us.

Were with Trump, and for the same reason, were with Netanyahu too.

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