When President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu met on the tarmac, they and their spouses chatted easily. The two conservative leaders have much in common. They are political insurgents who draw their support from a rougher working class overlooked and despised by leftist elites.
The polls said that Netanyahu and Trump would lose their respective elections. Instead they won big. They prevailed despite accusations of bigotry, attacks by celebrities and a torrent of fake media scandals. The media decided that the big story of Trump’s arrival in Israel would be their claim that Melania Trump had swatted her husband’s hand away. A few months ago, Netanyahu was in court testifying against a lefty journalist for spreading fake news that his wife had kicked him out of the car.
Like so much of the fake media news aimed at Trump, it was sourced from an anonymous source through another anonymous source who knew someone’s dog.
And, sure enough, Sara Netanyahu and Melania Trump bonded on the tarmac over the media’s hatred.
Trump and Netanyahu are political pragmatists with a strong economic focus who run to the right. Trump is a developer. Netanyahu has a degree in architecture. Trump has a Queens accent and Netanyahu still has his Philly accent. And they prevail despite the opposition of leftist elites.
Subtract the geography and this news story from Netanyahu’s victory would sound familiar to Trump. “Leftist, secular Tel Aviv went to sleep last night cautiously optimistic only to wake up this morning in a state of utter and absolute devastation.”
But there is one difference between the two men.
An hour before President Trump landed in Israel, a car struck people in Tel Aviv. Usually when a car hits people, it’s an accident. But in Israeli and in European cities, car ramming has become a terrorist tactic.
And so the incident was one of the first things that Trump heard about when he landed.
Police decided that it was an accident, but as the presidential visit got underway, there was the usual litany of violence; stonings, a fatality and a stabbing. And the question that so many of us now ponder across the civilized world rose unspoken each time blood was shed. Was it Islamic terrorism?
The efforts of conservative Israeli prime ministers to contain the fallout of a disastrous peace process with terrorists set into motion by leftist prime ministers have reduced the violence so that it no longer touches the lives of most Israelis on a regular basis. But it is always there. And it never truly goes away.
That is what must be understood when we talk about “peace”.
No amount of outreach to Muslim terrorists ends the violence. Not in Europe or America. And not in Israel; the country that has become the test case for whether Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist.
President Trump’s itinerary of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome is a gamble that “the three Abrahamic Faiths” will join in a coalition to take on Iran and ISIS. It’s a better plan than Bush’s push for regional democracy or Obama’s violently destructive backing for Islamist political takeovers in the Arab Spring. A common enemy is more likely to get different groups behind the same cause. But having a common enemy should not be confused with having peace. At best it means a very temporary truce.
Netanyahu understands this because he has far more experience with Islamic terrorism. When it comes to Islamic terrorism, there are few countries that have faced it as consistently and constantly as Israel.
Muslim terrorists have struck America before. But only in the last decade were the Islamic colonies in the United States large enough and young enough to mount a constant drumbeat of attack plots.
Thousands of terrorism investigations are still new to America. They’re a way of life in Israel.
Terrorism is a bloody education. Trump knows far more about Islamic terrorism than Bush did. And Bush knew far more than his father. Most Americans still can’t conceive of the idea that peace is impossible. It’s too grim and hopeless. We’ve come a long way since the Obama years. But we aren’t there yet.
In the spring of his first year, Obama traveled to the Middle East to seek a “new beginning” with the Muslim world. He stopped off first in Saudi Arabia, but saved his speech calling for political change until his arrival in Egypt. Trump delivered his key speech in Saudi Arabia disavowing calls for political change. Instead America’s relationship with the Muslim world would be defined by its national security needs.
Obama blamed colonialism for the poor relations between the West and the Muslim world. His solution was to dismantle Western power. Trump defined Islamic terrorism as the problem and unity against it as the solution. Obama had bypassed Israel and traveled on to Germany making a heavily publicized visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Trump continued on to Israel instead.
The difference was profound.
Obama was more comfortable engaging with Jews as victims and, in a typically egotistical manner, envisioning what the victims of the Holocaust might have made of his visit. “They could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them.” His Cairo speech reduced Israel to a byproduct of the Holocaust. If so, Israel’s capital might as well be in Buchenwald.
Trump however is ready to interact with the living Jewish present in Israel. His trip to the Western Wall, the first by a sitting president, and a cancelled visit to Masada, sought to engage with Israel’s national and religious identity. They signify a recognition that Obama never offered to Israel.
In Saudi Arabia, President Trump rolled out a vision of relationships based on national interest. And no such relationship can be built without recognizing national identity. Trump’s recognition of Israel’s national identity adds a note of respect. But Israel is one of the few nations in the region.
Nations can make peace. They can put aside their bloody past and at least learn to ignore each other. And in the West, religion has come to act as a moral operating system within the infrastructure of nations. Religion provides guidelines that transcend the law. The legal system can only tell us what we must do or may not do to each other. Religion tells us what we ought to do or not do to each other. It is a personal conscience and a relationship to a higher authority than mere government.
Saudi Arabia isn’t a nation. Neither is “Palestine”. They’re powerful extended families whose form of worship is terrorism. Islamic terrorism isn’t a perversion of Islam. It’s the implementation of Islam.
Islam provides the morale and motive for the conquest. And once the conquest is complete, it provides the framework for the kingdom. Islam’s message is the inferiority of Muslims to non-Muslims. War affirms the message. Oppression internalizes it. Islam is meaningful only when it is killing and oppressing infidels. It is not a religion of the persecuted, but the persecutors. Its theology is violent supremacism.
President Trump deserves credit for refusing to let the Saudis pretend that some Islamic terror groups are more legitimate than others by classing together ISIS with Hamas. But the only Islamic terrorism that the Saudis will reject is that which does not serve their interests. And even if they wanted to, they could no more end popular support for Islamic terrorism than Iraq could become a multicultural utopia through the magic of democracy.
Nor can Israel make peace with Islamic terrorists no matter how many more concessions Prime Minister Netanyahu offers them. President Trump calls it a tough deal. But you can only make a deal with someone who follows some of the same rules you do. You can’t make a deal with Islamic terrorists whose only rules are that the Koran lets them anything they want to you.
President Trump called Islamic terrorism evil. And it is. But it’s not just evil. Its codes and ethics are utterly incompatible with our own. The only way to negotiate is through threats. And even threats only go so far with fanatics who believe that if they die, they will earn 72 virgins in paradise.
Islamic entities will tell any lie and commit any crime to accelerate their objective of conquering us. Whether they tell a lie or commit a crime depends on whether they’re moderates or extremists.
Yesterday, I heard Geert Wilders speak. And I recognized a leader who understands this grim reality. Few of his fellow Europeans do. Even fewer American politicians share that understanding. Europe is facing a deeper threat than America. And Israel has been confronting a bigger threat than Europe.
Every act of Islamic terror educates us. It is a difficult and bloody education. We graduate when we realize who our enemies are and how impossible it is to achieve any peace with them.
President Trump's walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre required thousands of police officers, closed stores and houses filled with snipers while their residents were evacuated.
That is life under the shadow of terrorism.
It’s not only presidents who have to live this way. It’s all of us in Jerusalem and Paris, in Manchester and in Rome where there are soldiers in the street and cries of “Allah Akbar” in the air. And then a car speeds up, a knife slashes, a plane crashes or a bomb goes off.
And the education continues.