When we first noted the strange alliance of the Trump White House, we observed that we will now see how much overt Nazism conservative Jews and Zionists will be able to stomach in exchange for an aggressively pro-Israel position. Are things already approaching a breaking point? First, on Jan. 27, the White House issued a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that actually failed to mention Jews at all—prompting white nationalist mouthpiece Richard Spencer to applaud Trump's "de-Judification" of the Holocaust. And now, the White House has apparently warned Israel against further West Bank settlement building. Following Steve Bannon's ascension to the National Security Council, are the open Jew-haters on team Trump really starting to muscle out the ultra-Zionists?
First, let's pay close attention. The statement comes from an anonymous White House official, not Trump, and please note the actual text, as reported by the Jerusalem Post: "As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal. With that in mind, we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements. The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward."
In response to reports of this anonymous statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer clarified (if that's the right word): "The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal."
Note all the equivocations in both these statements. The first one calls on Israel to refrain from "announcements," not actual settlement activity. And makes clear that this is to be a temporary hiatus until the administration has "the chance to fully consult with all parties." The second one actually denies that settlements are "an impediment to peace" (while seeming to contradict itself in the very next line).
So portrayals such as that in the Daily News—"President Trump tells Israel to halt settlement construction on occupied land"—are not really accurate. It wasn't Trump who actually made the statement, and that's not what the statement actually said. Let's not read more into this than is there.
That said, it's worth noting the widespread reports of tension within the White House between Steve Bannon (now on the National Security Council) and Jared Kushner (now senior adviser to his father-in-law Trump). Most accounts have portrayed it as Bannon the yahoo versus Kushner the "moderate" or "restraining influence." Frank Bruni in the New York Times perceives that some of Trump's most egregious moves have come on the Jewish sabbath, when Kushner is not around to "temper" Bannon:
Some observers point to the Sabbath as proof that Kushner does indeed exert a taming force in Trump World. They say that the president is most reckless during these periods, because Ivanka and her husband aren't around to babysit.
It was during the Sabbath that Trump pressed the National Park Service for more-flattering inauguration photos and gave that cockamamie, vainglorious speech to the C.I.A. It was the next day that he calmed down and tweeted a tribute to the Women's March, calling peaceful protests "a hallmark of our democracy."
Another New York Times piece, this one a news analysis, claims: "The two most influential social liberals in President Trump's inner circle—daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner—helped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era LGBT protections, according to people familiar with the issue."
We view it, rather, as Bannon the white nationalist versus Kushner the Zionist—with neither placed ahead in a strictly linear scale of moderate to extremist. Even if Kushner may be more "liberal" on "social" issues, he is certainly the White House voice most committed to aggressive pro-Israel posture. Whereas Bannon may (we don't know) be responsible for the admonition to Israel on settlement expansion—if for the very worst of reasons. Certainly not any love for the Palestinians.
And on the subject of those bad reasons… Haaretz reports that there were 57 bomb threats to 48 Jewish community centers around the United States just in the month of January. "The coordinated threats, often targeting multiple organizations in the same hour, started on the East Coast and spread to westward [sic] two weeks ago, culminating in the evacuation of 14 Jewish community centers on Tuesday [Jan. 31]… [W]hile no bombs were found at any of the JCCs, those who regularly attend the schools, community centers, and day cares that are evacuated are shaken and fearful…"
"The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country," the FBI said in a statement to NBC News. With James Comey still at the helm, this is not much cause for comfort.
The progressive opposition has got to be very careful about getting caught up in this White House "Kremlinology." Yes, things are desperate, but we can't have any illusions. The entire edifice of the Trump administration must be rejected with utter intransigence. It would be a real disaster if "social liberals" started looking to ultra-Zionist Kushner as their savior—and a bigger one still if anti-Zionists started looking to white nationalist Bannon as theirs.
Resist these siren songs.