Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
After Hamas terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israel teens (one of them Israeli-American), Barack Obama urged Israel not to “destabilize the situation.”
Secretary of State John Kerry warned that, “The perpetrators must be brought to justice... without destabilizing the situation.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psak told, "Both sides to exercise restraint and avoid the types of steps that could destabilize the situation."
When Hezbollah terrorists opened fire on Israeli villages and took two the bodies of two Israeli soldiers as hostages, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted, "All sides must act with restraint to resolve this incident peacefully." When Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit, another soldier, she urged Israel to "Calm the situation, not to let the situation escalate and give diplomacy a chance to work.”
After the latest attacks by Iran and Hamas, the EU, the UK, France, Germany and China called on Israel to exercise “restraint”. "We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint," the UK's Alistair Burt insisted. France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian demanded that Israel, "Act with caution and restraint in the use of force, which must be strictly proportional".
Belgium called Israel’s ambassador in to browbeat her for defending her own country.
At the White House, the media demanded that deputy press secretary Raj Shah issue some sort of call for “restraint”. Instead Shah made it clear, "Hamas is responsible."
"Does the U.S. not agree with the French, that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?" NBC News' Peter Alexander asked.
Shah once again pointed out that it was a Hamas attack.
"So there's no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?" the frustrated NBC News hack barked. What he and the rest of the media wanted was for Trump to stop Israel from fighting back.
That was what “restraint” had always meant. And the same game had been played by every administration. Israel would respond to a terrorist attack. And then there would be immediate calls for restraint. That code word meant that Israel had to immediately stop fighting back against the terrorists.
At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley put the restraint meme to bed. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has," she said.
The meeting had been called by Kuwait's ambassador. The Muslim country's response to Palestinian collaboration with Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War had been to ethnically cleanse 200,000 of them.
In response to an upsurge in Muslim violence, China banned beards and burqas, ordered Muslim storekeepers to sell liquor and warned against children attending Koran classes.
"The records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained," Haley added.
All administration, even those of Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, had claimed to be pro-Israel. But for the first time ever, there was an actual pro-Israel administration. There have been pro-Israel presidents before, but their campaign convictions never translated into White House policy. Walled in by their advisers, Republicans would end up with a foreign policy barely distinguishable from Democrats.
President Trump is the first pro-Israel president who actually has a pro-Israel policy. This is the first administration to have a pro-Israel Secretary of State, National Security Adviser and UN Ambassador.
And so it’s the first administration that actually means what it says.
The embassy move, the upending of the Iran nuke scam and the refusal to condemn Israel for fighting Hamas are examples of this incredible new phenomenon in the often tawdry history of foreign policy.
A pro-Israel administration isn’t measured by the size of its foreign aid. The financial barometer that politicians love to use is often just a kickback to politically connected American companies. Being pro-Israel doesn’t mean money. It means letting Israel protect its borders and people against terrorists.
Being pro-Israel is not calling for restraint. It’s not demanding a proportionate response. (Which would mean that Israeli soldiers should throw firebombs into Gaza while trying to stab Hamas supporters.) It’s not fighting wars for Israel (which we’ve never done), but allowing Israel to fight its own wars.
Pro-Israel is respect.
If you respect a country, you don’t second guess its self-defense or tell it where its capital is.
During the Obama years, Hillary Clinton had bragged that she was the "designated yeller". One time, she yelled at the Israeli Prime Minister for 45 minutes after the Jerusalem municipality approved one stage of a possible housing plan while Biden was in the country.
It’s a sure bet that Secretary of State Pompeo hasn’t spent 45 minutes yelling at Netanyahu.
Forget all the policy details. Forget Jerusalem, Hamas, the Green Line and Iran’s nuclear program. When your diplomatic relationship is defined by yelling over the phone at Israel, that’s not pro-Israel. The contempt and hostility in the style of that relationship reflected the substance of the relationship.
And the mutual respect of the relationship style under Trump also reflects its deeper substance.
There’s a very good reason for that.
Democrat and Republican administrations chased stability by appeasing terrorists and pressuring Israel to show restraint and not “destabilize” matters by fighting terrorism. That was followed by demands for a diplomatic solution which the establishment claimed would bring stability to the region.
Every previous administration treated Israel as the problem. And that made it impossible for them to be pro-Israel. If you view a country as the problem, your relationship to it will be the “designated yeller.”
Trump isn’t a stability guy. He knows the power of creative chaos. Stability is the coat that a failed establishment uses to hide its lack of imagination. Instead he dumped the Iran deal and moved the embassy to Jerusalem because he wants results and isn’t interested in the establishment’s status quo.
That’s why he can be pro-Israel.
The obsession with stability eventually turned every administration against Israel. Every terror attack and Israeli response created crises that previous administrations would stabilize with meaningless truces and worthless deals that rewarded the terrorists and punished Israel. And that kept the violence going.
President Trump however knows that forcing a crisis can actually lead to a resolution. That’s what he did in North Korea. His predecessors were more willing to go to war than face a diplomatic crisis. They were told by their advisers that instability was an even greater threat than war and that as the leaders of a superpower, they were geopolitical managers tasked with maintaining stability around the world.
Our enemies became used to employing chaos to threaten stability. But Trump showed North Korea that he could be a bigger and scarier chaos agent. Iran is using Hamas to unleash chaos, but it doesn’t understand that Trump can ride bigger probability waves than its virgin-seeking suicide bombers.
The Trump revolution blew out stale lies for harsh truths. Trump enjoys the thrill of a crisis and isn’t afraid to throw a punch. His predecessors thought like managers while he thinks like an insurgent. They saw a crisis as a threat to order. Trump sees a crisis as an opportunity to achieve a desired outcome.
Unlike his predecessors, Trump is willing to let Israel do what it needs to do. And see what emerges from the crisis. That’s why so much of the foreign policy establishment panicked when he came on the scene.
Left to their own devices, the foreign policy establishment would be demanding, “restraint” from Israel. But Trump neither demands nor exercises restraint. He knows, what so many in America and Israel have forgotten, that you don’t win through restraint, but by doing what you need to do to win.
The motto of the 2016 campaign was, “Let Trump be Trump.” Trump’s approach for now has been to, “Let Israel be Israel.”