The year I began my rabbinic studies in Jerusalem, a full-fledged war broke out on Yom Kippur. My fellow students and I set aside our books and made ourselves useful wherever help was needed. Whether helping work in the city’s largest bakery so everyone could have bread, working in a home for severely disabled children, or volunteering at one of the city’s major hospitals, along with my fellows, I did what I could.
Joe Biden was the No. 2 person in an administration that in every way sought to lower its commitment to Israel and to undercut its ability to succeed as a nation or even to defend itself.
What has never left me is an acute appreciation of how slender is the thread upon which Israel’s survival hangs. We did not know that Syrian tanks had penetrated the Israeli lines and, had they been better led, could have unhinged all of Israel’s defenses. We did not know how useless the Bar Lev fortifications had proven against Egypt. That all came later. But that this was a moment of existential crisis was known by all instinctively. It was in the air.
What a difference it made when the news came that America had created an air lifeline for Israel. In the terrible fighting, the IDF had nearly exhausted its ammunition and necessary military hardware. Taking great diplomatic risk, President Nixon decided to set up a continuous air ferry of supplies that enabled Israel to continue to fight, to turn the tables, and to remove the threat of extinction that a Syrian–Egyptian conquest would have meant.
Ever since that time, when I was in my early 20s, I have made a candidate’s position on Israel a top priority in elections. By the time the next presidential election came up in 1976, Nixon was gone and Ford’s policy was being unduly demanding of Israel. I was by no means a conservative then, and there was little else about Ford that inspired me, so I voted for the mysterious man from Georgia. But by the time 1980 rolled around, Carter had shown that he blamed Israel exclusively for the failure of Camp David to lead to full Middle East peace, and his fatuous policy towards Iran had allowed that country to turn into a seething cauldron of hatred against Israel and America. I voted for Reagan, though I also voted for Teddy Kennedy for the Senate because of his friendliness to Israel’s cause.
I have heard several times from thoughtful Jewish friends who are liberal that they won’t deny that Trump’s firm alliance with Israel is an undeniable good. But, they insist, one can’t vote for president on one issue alone. On the surface of it, it is a reasonable objection.
But it is an objection that does not bear much scrutiny.
Should one issue properly determine a vote for the most powerful office in the world? It depends upon the issue, does it not? Let’s sharpen the point by restating the question the way I think applies best to the current choice — should a candidate’s stand on one issue disqualify him or her from consideration, no matter where the candidate stands on other issues?
Imagine a candidate endorses a constitutional amendment to establish the principle of “separate but equal” again in law, invalidating almost every civil rights law and decision since the Brown decision at the beginning of the Eisenhower presidency. Most Americans wouldn’t care how sensible the candidate’s position would be on taxes or on response to the CCP virus — such a position opening the doors to government-enforced segregation would immediately end any possibility of most Americans ever voting for such a person.
Joe Biden was the No. 2 person in an administration that in every way sought to lower its commitment to Israel and to undercut its ability to succeed as a nation or even to defend itself. Biden could not have devised or executed the strategy for achieving this, as Israel was very strongly supported by Democrats as well as Republicans and its cause was widely popular across America. Iran on the other hand was widely and properly reviled as a despotic regime intent on our harm and dedicated to underwriting and spreading terror as part of its policy to establish Shi’ite hegemony over the entire Middle East, and to end the existence of the only Jewish state in the world and the only nation in the Middle East in which all religions are protected by law and can thrive.
The strategy was masterminded and executed by Obama, a master at bait and switch, so adept at it that twice he fooled even as astute a lawyer and intense an advocate of Israel as Alan Dershowitz into giving him his endorsement — something which Dershowitz intensely regrets. By the end of the Obama–Biden administration, Israel’s prime minister had been forced to enter the White House by the service entrance; the president had intervened in Israeli elections to undermine the prime minister; a successful international embargo of Iran that had been slowing down its ability to underwrite terror was ended and replaced with an agreement that would guarantee Iran the right to manufacture nuclear weapons by 2025; and in a gratuitous kick to the teeth, under Obama’s instructions, the U.S. withheld its veto and let the UN Security Council declare Israel’s presence in its own capital and in its most sacred holy places a criminal act. And just before the Obama–Biden team left office, they deposited hundreds of millions of dollars into Iran’s coffers, re-enabling them to once again underwrite the murder and mayhem of Hezbollah, Hamas, and their other clients.
Biden has promised to return to the “highlights” of this policy, and has welcomed into his coalition the unapologetically bigoted voices of people like Linda Sarsour, and accepted without demurral the blatantly anti-Semitic voices of Reps. Tlaib, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez, the last of whom could not refrain from intentionally and publicly snubbing the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel Peace laureate and signer of a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat, showing that her issue is not with one side or the other in Israel but with its very existence. Biden and his party ignore the successes that were conspicuously absent from the approach he worked for and still endorses. Who would have believed four years ago that two Arab states would have signed peace treaties with Israel and that there is momentum for many more? But in the face of such great results, Biden wants us to again put Israel in its place, which means making it subject to the threat of a nuclear Iran and empowering its enemies just when they have been losing the battle for the minds and hearts of the Arab world.
I say that a candidate with such a record on Israel and the Middle East needs no further consideration. To vote for such a person is to endorse the destruction of the peace that is already taking shape, and instead empowering the darkest forces on the planet, helping them to get closer to their stated goal of wiping out the world’s largest Jewish community.
None of this is to say that there aren’t other important issues, any number of which should be important enough to end consideration of a vote for Biden. Biden is the beneficiary of the greatest attack on the freedom of political discourse in the history of our country — and he says nothing about it. If one cherishes free speech, this issue alone should be enough. The growing credible evidence of Biden’s influence-peddling to foreign concerns in Ukraine, China, and Romania makes a vote for him about as palatable as voting for Harding after Teapot Dome. And the apparent willingness to make any kind of political deal with the ever more truculent violent left of his party makes it reasonable to assume that Obama’s use of phone intercepts against political opponents, of tasking national intelligence as an adjunct of Clinton’s campaign, and of using the IRS to stifle political opposition seem be child’s play with what those to whom he owes his nomination would like to see executed.
But for me, Biden’s indifference to the very existence of Israel is enough. In that indifference, he displays indifference to those great principles that have made America great — recognizing that our liberties are given to each of us by G-d, and that government is not to be worshipped, but to serve us — we, the people. America’s embrace of the people of Israel from the very beginning showed it as a place of freedom and hope. I choose the candidate on this issue because it shows what he understands about America.