As Americans living in Israel, we particularly feel the risks caused by Trump’s careless, destructive and abnormal behavior
Ever since Donald Trump started his run for the presidency in 2015, Americans in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have been shocked again and again by the rifts he has triggered through the U.S. body politic and with our allies abroad.
The rumblings since his inauguration reached tsunami proportions this week before the president’s anticipated arrival here in the Middle East. We have learned that our sacred American democracy is neither self-supporting nor immutable, and that it depends very much on the active preservation of norms and customs passed down to us over 240 years since the founders declared our freedom from tyranny and our inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Those norms have never been more clearly under threat.
Mr. Trump relied on the tropes of rape culture to normalize, trivialize and dismiss sexual assaults on women, reframed as ‘locker room talk’. That defanged ‘talk’ didn’t repel enough of the voting public to stop him being elected. Not normal.
Mr. Trump demeans sitting judges, including a judge hearing a case against him and a panel of appellate judges who ruled against one of his executive orders. He has no respect for the rule of law and the separation of the judicial branch under the constitution. He does not respect the constitution that he has sworn an oath to uphold. Not normal.
Mr. Trump broke the norms of how decent debate and how we respect our institutions, then trashed the norms on which the executive branch of the federal government rests. He brought into the White House a National Security Advisor who his Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, warned could be compromised by the Russians, but took 18 days to dismiss him and then only did so after the information leaked to the press. He then fired Yates because she would not defend his unconstitutional executive order – the Muslim ban.
Mr. Trump brought alt-right activist Steve Bannon into the White House with the objective of deconstructing the administrative state, as Sarah Posner noted in the Washington Post. “Trump is putting the entire government – and the American people’s trust in it – at risk… the administration’s overarching aim [is]: transforming, and in some cases perhaps even deliberately hamstringing, the work of the federal government.”
Trump allegedly sought a loyalty oath from his FBI director, James Comey, though the position is to be apolitical, then fired him while Comey headed an investigation looking at possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the election. One of the muddled justifications Trump offered for the firing was that the investigation was a hoax by the Democrats. Not normal.
The advisors to the President should be independent and swear to uphold the constitution against all threats foreign and domestic – they should not be capable of being compromised by a foreign power. Our norms have always held that this was obvious – until now. With the same breath, the honest are dismissed and the compromised protected, until it becomes truly unsustainable. But when foreign relations are involved, turning norms on their heads creates a far more exponential risk.
When Trump bragged about U.S. intelligence to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office and freely disclosed ‘code worded’ intelligence information from Israel, it’s not just a question of political reputations at stake. Israeli intelligence officers in the field may have been compromised; they risked their lives to provide invaluable intelligence to keep America safe and secure. As Americans living in Israel, we understand the risks that this poses to our sons and daughters, whether in the U.S. or Israeli militaries, who put their lives on the line to protect all of us, from Tel Aviv to Tennessee, from dangers like the Islamic State. Not normal.
We have never had a U.S. President with so little respect for the norms of society and the norms on which our delicate democracy rests. Americans living abroad vote overwhelmingly Democratic. In Israel, in the last elections, we saw an upsurge in Democratic voter registration, including first time voters and U.S. citizens born in Israel. We are encouraged by the outpouring of support from our revitalized Democrats Abroad-Israel base. The anti-Trump resistance is here too.
Americans take their values with them wherever they go – and we are not taking this assault on our persons, our values, our institutions, our democracy and our norms lightly. We are fighting back. We know Americans in Israel still believe in American values and respect for all: Immigrants, refugees, women, minorities, Muslims, Jews, the rule of law, the Constitution, our intelligence services, for a free press. For the norms that have always made America great, and that Trump is comprehensively undermining. That’s why we will be protesting the president when he arrives in Israel next week.