In his first 22 days in office, President Donald Trump has met with a slew of foreign leaders. Last week, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came for his first official visit with the Trump administration on Feb. 15, the two leaders held a joint press conference.
During his campaign, Trump promised to warm the frosty U.S.-Israel relations of the Obama administration. Trump promised to be friendly to our nation’s biggest ally in the Middle East, and many American Jews were adamant in their support for Trump because of this.
At the press conference, Trump said he wants to work on a peace deal between Palestine and Israel.
“Both sides will have to make compromises, you know that right?” Trump said.
“Israel has no better ally than the United States, and I want to assure you the United States has no better ally than Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Our alliance is based on a deep bond of common values and common interests.”
While this may be a step in the right direction in terms of friendliness between leaders, it doesn’t seem like Trump will be the most effective president for American Jews.
On Feb. 16, Trump held a solo press conference, during which he virtually ignored the larger point of a question from a Jewish reporter. After saying he wanted to take a question from a “friendly reporter,” Trump called on Jake Turx of Ami Magazine, who started by saying that he did not believe Trump or anyone on the president’s staff to be anti-Semitic.
“However, what we are concerned about,” Turx said, “and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is going to take care of it.”
What Turx was referring to were the numerous bomb threats made to Jewish community centers across the country in the last couple months. Rather than answer the question directly, though, Trump complained that it was “not a simple, not a fair question.” He simply responded by saying he is the “least anti-Semitic” and “least racist” person.
By refusing to answer this question about how his administration will deal with anti-Semitic incidents, Trump is essentially inviting, not condemning, anti-Semitic threats. Additionally, by delaying his answer to how to stop anti-Semitic actions, he will lose whatever popularity he has among Jewish Americans and leave the door open for more threats.
This strategy will continue to do more harm than good. However, Trump has recently begun to turn the corner.Over the weekend, a Jewish cemetery was damaged when the vandals toppled over 100 graves. Yesterday, Trump denounced these actions, saying there is still work to do when it comes to anti-Semitism. This is only the latest in anti-Semitic incidents to occur under Trump’s watch. It’s encouraging that Trump condemned these actions, but he must not stop if he wants to create progress.
Trump has to be very careful. If he continues to allow anti-Semitism to occur without repercussions, the tolerance for anti-Semitic acts will rise rather than fall. Hopefully, Trump will realize this sooner, rather than later.