Two Years of Trump

Donald Trump, President of the United States of Hate?

From Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem move to the Iran deal, from Saudi to Syria and from Palestinian refugees to the Muslim travel ban: Read the best Haaretz commentary and critique on two years of the 45th president

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen during a campaign rally in this combination photo in Estero, Florida, U.S., October 31, 2018
\ CARLOS BARRIA/ REUTERS

There is a certain symmetry to two years of Donald Trump's presidency: he rounded off his presidential election campaign with an ad condemned as dog-whistling to anti-Semites and he's ending the GOP's midterms campaign with an online ad described as a "bullhorn" to racists.

The suggestion that Trump was an inciter whose language and references mainstreamed hate speech has, of course, always been comprehensively dismissed by his close advisors.

This is what Trump’s erstwhile lawyer, now Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt wrote in Haaretz during the campaign, back in May 2016 - a defense that sounded far-fetched then, and enirely fantastical now: Anyone thinking "hate speech espoused by...often anonymous individuals is indicative of the environment Mr. Trump will foster in our great country is reckless and ill-informed….to suggest, through innuendo and outright assertion, that Mr. Trump represents “the ascendancy of hate” is irresponsible in the extreme." 

Mourners visit the memorial to the 11 congregants killed in a mass shooting inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. October 31, 2018
AFP

There was already significant tension in the overwhelmingly Democratic-voting U.S. Jewish community when Trump won the 2016 election. Since then, there have been a series of events, watershed moments, that have triggered intense debate within the Jewish community about whether the Trump presidency presents a threat to its well-being and safety.

From the shocking images of Charlottesville and Trump's morally hazardous comments, to the atrocity in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the same questions are being asked: Is the president consciously inciting against minorities and immigrants? Are we framing anti-Semitism in America solely, and wrongly, as a phenomenon of the Trump era? What is the relationship between xenophobia and hostility to American Muslims and refugees - and anti-Semitism? What activism best answers the needs of these times?

And - a debate that intensifies every day - what is the relationship between Trump's exploitation of racist tropes and a president who loudly proclaims his support for Israel, the Jewish state, and - to the plaudits of not only the Israeli government, but many U.S. Jews as well - moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

As Israelis proudly identify as the world's outliers in expressing their confidence in the Trump presidency, echoing Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu's highly vocal warmth towards the president, how solid is the 'special relationship' between the two countries?

Has the Trump administration - by cancelling the Iran nuclear deal and aid to the Palestinians - proven its allyship with Jerusalem, or has it endangered its safety? Is the administration laying the ground for an 'ultimate' peace deal or an ethno-nationalist, annexationist Israel? How does the Israel-U.S. relationship fit into the rise of right-wing populist governments around the world? How reliable is a president as transactional and mercurial as Trump?

Over the last two years, Haaretz has covered these burning issues intensively from a broad range of viewpoints. I invite you to take a deep dive into my pick of the opinion pieces that explore and illuminate these topics from a range of writers distinguished by their diversity, clarity and sometimes passionate engagement.

Anti-Semitism Rises

FILE PHOTO: A Pittsburgh Police officer walks past a memorial for the victims of a shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2018
Gene J. Puskar,AP

David RothkopfTrump Didn’t Pull the Trigger on Jews in Pittsburgh, but He Certainly Prepped the Shooter

The massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue is the result of Trump’s constant endorsement of hate against the other, a fear-mongering which has brought America to a very dark place

Ronald Linden: We Pittsburgh Jews Don't Want Your 'Thoughts and Prayers'

Keep your facile words. Instead, show us some balls. Stand up, don't cozy up, to the purveyors of hate, to the NRA, to the cowardly politicians who legitimized the synagogue shooter's sentiments

Eric YoffieWhy the Midterms Terrify American Jews

We know where bigoted, autocratic, indecent and parochial views like those of Donald Trump lead. U.S. Jews should be praying for every Democratic candidate canvasser to succeed: the American Jewish future depends on it

Chemi ShalevOn a Day That Will Live on in Infamy, Trump Reveals His True Dark Heart

After his "fine people" comment about Charlottesville's neo-Nazis, there’s nowhere left to hide. Trump is an aider and abettor of Nazis, anti-Semites and racists. He is their hero. There are no two ways about it.

Anton ShekhovtsovHow anti-Semitism Aids Moscow’s Covert Influence Campaign in the U.S

A pro-Kremlin website's sudden 'conversion' to hardcore anti-Semitism provided fuel for an alliance with America's far right, part of Moscow's strategy to provoke further polarization in the U.S.

Avraham BronsteinThe NRA's Wayne LaPierre's Chilling Christian Nationalist Call to Arms

Why did CPAC love Lapierre's anti-Semitic and anti-minority dog-whistling so much? Because his message - that they're the vanguard of 'real' Americans - resonates with the European-style ethno-nationalism many U.S. conservatives have adopted

Laurel LeffThe Trump Civility Debate Isn't New. In the 1930s, America Debated Whether It Was Civil to Shun the Nazis

Americans who protested Nazism too loudly, including Americans Jews, were criticized for their 'discourtesy': Our fear of incivility appeased Nazism. We can't go there again

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11, 2017.
STRINGER/ REUTERS

Jonathan S. Tobin: Hitler Was a Democrat: Dinesh D'Souza Takes Holocaust Analogies to Their Most Foul, Illiterate Place Yet

As one of Trump’s court of sycophants, Dinesh D'Souza's noxious libels will likely be his most successful piece of agitprop yet. His migration of foolish, extremist ideas to mainstream audiences should trouble every American

Charlotte KnoblochWhat We German Jews Hear When Trump’s U.S. Ambassador Says He Wants to 'Empower' Toxic Populists

When Richard Grenell praises the 'resurgence' of Europe's 'anti-establishment' populists, in a country where the virulently anti-Semitic, populist far right has returned to parliament, he puts German Jews and democracy in danger

Amit Gvaryahu: Lucky the Jews Didn’t Understand What Mike Pence Was Really Saying

Speaking in Israel's parliament, the U.S. vice president came to praise the Jewish people. But his speech actually repudiated Jewish tradition, echoed tropes used to persecute Jews, and cast us as a mere tools for the salvation of Christians

Bradley Burston: Trump's Win, the Greatest Victory for anti-Semitism in America Since 1941

The Jew haters are celebrating. And Jews – from Jared Kushner to Sheldon Adelson – helped it happen

Peter Beinart: I Still Love America. But, After Trump's Victory, I Don’t Trust It

I’ve never felt less American and more Jewish. I hear my grandmother's voice in my ear: As Jews, we know history doesn't always march forward toward a better day.

U.S. Jews Were Once Strangers, Refugees, Immigrants

Over 100 rabbis and Jewish activists demonstrating to keep DACA in effect, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, January 2018.
Ralph Alswang

Andrea Pitzer: Donald Trump Is Still Setting Up Concentration Camps on American Soil

It is an earlier incarnation of Auschwitz, a place of indefinite detention for a vilified minority, that we saw on our border this week. The president's executive order offers no evidence this will change

Justin David: Rabbis in Cuffs: Privileged to Be Arrested for Protesting Trump’s Muslim Ban

In resisting the abuse of the vulnerable, prompted by President Trump’s Executive Order, do all American Jews now have a religious duty of civil disobedience?

Samuel Heilman: My Parents Were Saved on Schindler’s List. Then America Took Us In

Only nativist mediocrities shun the competition of new challengers and seek to restrict immigration

From D.C. to Jerusalem: U.S.- Israel relations under Trump

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
AFP

Dan Shapiro: Will the U.S. Midterms Constrain Trump's Wilder and Inflammatory Mideast Policy Instincts?

Trump’s two year Mideast policy scorecard is a mixed picture: Partial success stories and incomplete policies. But an unleashed president could have an explosive effect on the region

Peter Lerner: Trump's Hardball Policy on the Palestinians Will Blow Up in Israel's Face

Israelis shouldn't celebrate the Trump administration's decision to slash funds for the Palestinians. It's a radicalizing gift for terrorists - and a ticking time bomb for Israel's security

Jacob Bacharach: Trump's Israel Trip Was One Big Gaslighting Charade

He wanted to rehabilitate an image tarnished by accusations of anti-Semitism. But the U.S. president's 'spiritual grand tour' stop in Israel was an absurd series of empty gestures

Bradley Burston: Would Trump Save Israel in the Next War?

Given his complex relationship with Putin - for all that anyone knows, given his debtor relationship with Putin - would Trump even be capable of intervening in a meaningful way?

Dana H. Allin and Steven Simon: The Tragic Decline of Liberal Values in the U.S.-Israeli Alliance, From Truman to Trump

Punctuated by Trump’s cartoonish Mideast policy, Israel's 70th anniversary is a melancholy milestone for U.S.-Israel relations, marking the deterioration of the ethics and ideals that once bound them together

An 'Ultimate' Peace Plan - Without the Palestinians

US President's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt meets with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 25, 2017.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

Jason Greenblatt: The Palestinians Deserve So Much More Than Saeb Erekat

The inaccurate, unhelpful and false rhetoric of Palestinian leaders like chief negotiator Erekat have not brought peace, and never will. It’s time to hear different Palestinian voices with the courage to seize peace

Saeb Erekat: Trump’s Administration, Peddling Israeli Extremism, Is Killing the Peace Process, Not Me

In dozens of meetings, Mr. Greenblatt refused to discuss substance: borders, settlements, even the two-state solution. This White House can't come remotely close to facilitating a just and lasting Mideast peace

Zaha Hassan: Despite Two Years of Hostility, Palestinians Will Thank Trump One Day

Trump's Mideast team, unlike the rest of his administration, has been transparent and consistent: Palestinians have no right to a state; Israel doesn't need to answer for its human rights abuses. But there's a Democratic backlash - and a future political windfall for the Palestinians

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip burning posters depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 6, 2017.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Chemi Shalev: Whatever His Intentions, Trump’s Endorsement of Two-state Solution Changes Reality

Trump’s ego wouldn’t allow him to refrain from boasting about the very steps that pushed the Palestinians away from negotiations in the first place

Victor Kattan: Palestine Declares (Legal) War on the United States of America

John Bolton dismisses the efforts of the 'so-called State of Palestine' to legally challenge Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; Palestinian leaders believe international law is key to their fight back against hostile U.S. policy. But what are their chances of success?

David Makovsky: So Much Winning: Why Mahmoud Abbas Thinks He's Beating Trump - and Israel

He's 83, with no successor and no state. But Palestinian President Abbas consoles himself, in the twilight of his lifetime, with the belief that after two years of Trump, he's come out on top

Daniel Kurtzer: America Can't Save the Two-state Solution

I've believed in the two-state solution for over 40 years, but I fear it's fast becoming an illusion. Israelis and Palestinians are careening towards a one-state reality that carries extremely dangerous risks for both sides

Letty Cottin Pogrebin: For 40 Years, I’ve Fought for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. But a Trump-brokered Deal? No Thanks

No Israeli-Palestinian deal sullied by Donald Trump's fingerprints can be trusted, because the man himself can’t be trusted and neither can his word

Trump moves the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner attend the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Monday, May 14, 2018
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Elliott Abrams: Bravo, President Trump, for Standing Up to Palestinian Blackmail on Jerusalem

Trump isn't destroying his own peace efforts but grounding them in reality: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And he’s reacted to Arab and Palestinian ‘predictions’ (read: threats) of violence with the contempt they deserve

Debra Shushan: The Day Donald Trump Was Crowned King in Jerusalem

Along with many other U.S. Jews, I wanted to feel pride at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. But amid the carnage in Gaza, I felt nausea

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near Gaza border,  May 14, 2018
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

James Martin: What Happens When pro-Trump Christians Weaponize the Bible

U.S. 'pro-Israel' evangelicals who declare the president enacted God's will, by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, may want to consider the terrible historical cost of a selective and literalist use of the Bible

Anshel Pfeffer: Donald Trump Thinks the Jews Aren't Grateful Enough 

'But I gave them Jerusalem!' A recent report warned of a 'growing frustration' in the White House for U.S. Jews' lack of appreciation for his policies toward Israel. Perhaps because they're too grown up, and informed, to supply such unfounded adulation

Uneasy allies: Trump, Israel and threats from the Mideast - Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Cliff Owen/AP

Dan Shapiro: Why the Khashoggi Murder Is a Disaster for Israel

The grisly hit-job on Khashoggi has implications far beyond its exposure of the Saudi Crown Prince as brutal and reckless. In Jerusalem and D.C., they’re mourning their whole strategic concept for the Mideast - not least, for countering Iran

Chuck Freilich: Trump's Mayhem Allows Putin's Russia to Take Over the Middle East, One Country at a Time

Obama thought Syria would be Russia’s Vietnam: in fact, the Mideast has become Putin’s playground. Thanks to diplomacy, arms sales and nuclear reactors - and Trump’s policy chaos - Russia is back, big time

Michael Koplow: Donald Trump Just Put Israel in Immediate Danger

Netanyahu has convinced Trump that leaving the Iran deal protects Israel. But the U.S. walk out means a full-on Israel-Iran war in Syria now becomes far more likely

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an anti-U.S. mural in Tehran, Iran October 13, 2017.
\ Reuters Photographer/ REUTERS

Eric Yoffie: Counting Down to Donald Trump’s Complete Betrayal of Israel on Iran

Netanyahu always tells us Trump has Israel’s back on Iran. But the president won't confront tyrants, intent as he is on unraveling America’s commitments abroad. If Tehran races to nuclear capability, Israel will pay the price - alone

Amos Harel and Amir Tibon: Why Iran Thinks It Has an ‘Insurance Policy’ Against an Israeli or U.S. Strike

Israeli and American officials think Iran is trying to ‘wait out’ Trump's first term, and is banking on the wounded nuclear deal to shield it from a military strike until then

Khalaf Al Habtoor: The Arab World Needs to Move on From the Liberation of Palestine

Israel is going nowhere, and we in the Arab world have to deal with it. That means offering Israelis prosperity, security and friendship; all Israel needs to do is overcome their prejudices and give Palestinians their rights

Esther Solomon is the Opinion Editor of Haaretz English. Twitter: @EstherSolomon