Why Trump is even thinking about naming pro-Israel apparatchik who opposed him to high position

US Politics

Elliott Abrams, the rightwing Israel supporter who did everything he could to thwart peace negotiations as an aide to President George W. Bush, is meeting with Donald Trump today and reportedly is close to being named number two at the State Department, serving former oil man Rex Tillerson.

Here’s the political puzzle that deserves an answer: Why is Abrams, a neoconservative ideologue who was outspoken against Trump in the last election and who promoted the Iraq war that Trump routinely denounces, even being considered for such a high appointment? Trump would be plucking Abrams out of recent obscurity and disgrace, and it’s not as if Abrams and Tillerson, a Texan late of Exxon Mobil, share the same outlook on the world.

So who asked Trump to meet with Abrams? Why? And why the likely appointment?

The obvious answer is Trump wants to appease a segment of opinion. If Abrams is installed, it will be as an Israel lobby apparatchik. The pro-Israel community is so powerful that even Trump must defer to it. Whether it’s campaign donations (Sheldon Adelson) or the neoconservative bloc inside the Republican Party (John McCain), or the neoconservative media/thinktank echo chamber (Bill Kristol/Washington Post editorial page) — Trump must come to terms with this power, even as he defies other powerful forces that are resisting him. After all, Trump is ignoring, even going out of his way to antagonize, other critical precincts.

And right on time, Bill Kristol, leader of the Never Trump movement, has tweeted approvingly of the Abrams feeler.

Who said that pro-Israel neoconservativism is dead! This political power can also be seen in the fact that Adam Szubin, a man with his own neoconservative credentials, was asked by Trump to stay on from the Obama administration as under secretary of Treasury for terrorism and counter-intelligence– the Iran job.

Elliott Abrams describes himself as a “neocon” in his last book, Tested by Zion.

“I was. . . a strong proponent of the closest possible relations between the United States and Israel. . . I had strong personal ties with most of the major American Jewish organizations.”

Those close ties are Abrams’s political bona fides. He is an ardent Jewish nationalist, just as Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is an American nationalist. Abrams has said that all Jews must “stand apart” from the country that they live in except Israel:

Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart – except in Israel – from the rest of the population

As a White House official under George W. Bush, Abrams served as Israel’s lawyer, undercutting any American pressure on Israel to freeze settlements: “more than I thought the traffic in Israel could bear… a disaster for Israel.” He met regularly with Jewish leaders and invoked the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s punitive actions (Jews are “a people who had learned from history what happens to Jews without security”); he repeatedly mocked Condoleezza Rice’s peace efforts when she was secretary of state as “untethered to reality” — and made snide observations about Rice’s belief that Palestine was very much like the Jim Crow Alabama she grew up in.

The New York Times does its best to obfuscate what is going on in today’s report, titled “Elliott Abrams, Neoconservative Who Rejected Trump, May Serve Him.” The story offers comforting words about the “genial” Abrams– and of course never mentions Israel:

The advantage of picking Mr. Abrams is clear: He knows the inner workings of the department. . .

[H]is selection would calm many at the State Department who worry that Mr. Tillerson, who has never served in government, [etc.]. . . Mr. Abrams knows the building well and, with a genial style and sharp views, knows how to navigate the national security bureaucracy.

Writes David Bromwich, in an email:

This story has the effect of promoting Abrams even as it disavows him. A familiar face at State and things would feel closer to normal — also Abrams’s hostility to Palestinians is almost equaled by his hatred of Russia: another cause dear to the Times.

The Times reporters describe Abrams as “a neoconservative who has long argued for an activist foreign policy that spreads American values around the world.” That too is a form of clemency. Abrams is responsible for murders in Central America, and for promoting a war that killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq.

And the article cites another pro-Israel “expert” who applauds Abrams as potentially putting Trump on a “more predictable path.”

“For the most part, I think he would be welcomed in the State Department,” said Dennis Ross, the senior Middle East adviser under President Barack Obama. “He’s seen as serious, responsible and knowledgeable.”

Ross is Abrams’s Democratic counterpart: a White House perennial who served as Israel’s lawyer in Democratic administrations. Ross also says that Jews must stand by Israel; he told a synagogue audience last year, “We don’t need to be advocates for Palestinians. We need to be advocates for Israel.” Ah, the honest broker.

The sad lesson of the Abrams job interview is that rightwing American nationalism and Jewish nationalism are completely copacetic under Trump. Trump’s top strategist, rightwing nationalist Steve Bannon, long ago made peace with Zionism. The website Breitbart that he led had its roots in pro-Israel advocacy and Islamophobia.

That alliance is a reflection of the power of the Israel lobby in our political culture. It’s little wonder that of all the revolutionary policies Trump has affirmed, the only one he’s abandoned is his vow of neutrality re Israel Palestine.

No; pro Israel neoconservatism is not dead by any means.

26 Responses

  1. Mooser
    February 7, 2017, 1:16 pm

    “Abrams has said that all Jews must “stand apart” from the country that they live in except Israel:”

    But the antisemitic US Constitution subverted that, by considering Jews nothing more than American citizens!
    This forced Jews, at the cost of their own identity, to live here in the US, participate in its economic, educational and political development. We never wanted to. They made us!

    A privilege of non-participation and non-citizenship was extended to Native Americans and the African slaves brought to America, and Hispanics acquired with territory and even Asians, but not Jews!
    Sorry, sorry, the American Jewish Holocaust-by- forced assimilation is one of my obsessions.

    • RoHa
      February 7, 2017, 5:18 pm

      “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart – except in Israel – from the rest of the population ”

      And when the people among whom they live suggest that, if Jews stand apart from the nation, then they have no real loyalty to the nation and cannot expect the benefits of being a member of the nation, does that same covenant require Jews to accuse the nation of bigotry and anti-Semitism?

      • echinococcus
        February 7, 2017, 6:38 pm

        Tell you the truth, RoHa, I was even more puzzled by the “except in Israel”.
        So in “Israel” they don’t stand apart from the 20% or so unclean Goys? Not at all?
        Curiouser and curiouser.

      • RoHa
        February 7, 2017, 7:14 pm

        I think the Israeli Jews expect the others to stand apart from them. And especially from their daughters.

      • eljay
        February 8, 2017, 8:00 am

        || echinococcus: Tell you the truth, RoHa, I was even more puzzled by the “except in Israel”. … ||

        Mr. Abrams speaks longingly of a future in which a utopian, thousand year “Jewish State” exists devoid of non-Jews.

        A Zionist’s gotta dream, I guess.

    • RoHa
      February 7, 2017, 5:29 pm

      Incidentally, why do Jews have to stand apart?

      (I may sound a bit unsympathetic here, Mooser, but I’m not really clear about why citizenship and equal rights in the USA are such a source of suffering. Here, yes. We, dammit, have to vote! Federal elections, State elections, local elections … It never ends. And it applies to Australian Jews as well.)

      • echinococcus
        February 7, 2017, 6:44 pm

        “They” have to stand apart to create grounds to claim antisemitism so that somebody can bellyache endlessly about being a Nation.

    • Elizabeth Block
      February 8, 2017, 11:26 am

      So are you living in Israel? And if not, why not?

  2. Atlantaiconoclast
    February 7, 2017, 1:28 pm

    No, it is NOT copacetic. Nothing about Israeli nationalism matches what is right about American nationalism. For all of our faults, we have made our indigenous people full citizens. Our wall will be on our legal border. We aren’t obligated under international law to allow for a return of Palestinian refugees.

    Abrams and Ross and the others get away with their blatant Israel first orientation because our side is too afraid to brand them as Jewish supremacists! You guys think RICHARD SPENCER is any worse than these transparently bigoted Jews?

  3. ckg
    February 7, 2017, 2:31 pm

    Abrams’ late wife Rachel called Palestinian children “devils’ spawn.” Abrams should feel right at home with David Friedman.

  4. Kay24
    February 7, 2017, 3:03 pm

    These are strong signs that Trump is going to be a staunch supporter of Israel, and that his policies will be all slanted to favor the occupation and land grabs. There will be no punitive measures against Israel for it’s crimes and for breaking international laws, and as usual Israel will get away with murder.

  5. HarryLaw
    February 7, 2017, 3:07 pm

    Trumps mantra should be “I aim to make Israel great[er] again”. He seems to be doubling down on the Israel/Sunni Muslim [GCC] configuration. Seymour Hersh wrote about this in ‘The Redirection’ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection Israel and Saudi Arabia are certainly coming together, both as a result of the growing ‘arc of resistance’ in the form of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq and Yemen, backed by Russia and China. The latter’s silk road, and other investments in Iran mean it is no insignificant player in the region, and in the political power both groups [Israel/Saudi] have on the US political process. Unfortunately for US/Israel the arc is growing stronger by the day as a result of the financial and technological prowess of Iran, hence the hysterical outpourings of hatred towards them. In many ways they are right the Saudis nor the Israelis will cede power to Iran, their crowns and territorial ambitions depend on it, it will be Iran or Israel/Saudi Arabia who will have hegemony over the region. My bet is on the Iranians and the ‘arc’.

  6. Keith
    February 7, 2017, 4:52 pm

    JAMES NORTH/PHIL WEISS- “Here Trump is plucking someone out of recent obscurity and disgrace.”

    Obscurity? Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, the primary Think Tank and policy formation forum of the Deep State. Far from being in disgrace and banned, the neocons continue to have outsized influence on US foreign policy. Democrats Obama and Clinton share significant responsibility for this. Victoria Nuland (Mrs. Robert Kagan) was brought into the Obama administration by Hillary Clinton to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

    NORTH/WEISS- “So who asked Trump to meet with Abrams? Why? And why the likely appointment?”

    You are really stretching reality to suggest that this is primarily about Israel and the Lobby. Netanyahu loves Trump and Israel hardly needs Abrams in the State Department. It looks like the CIA/Deep State is behind this to ensure that the Deep State policy of warmongering and hegemony at all costs continues under Trump as it did under Obama. If Trump selects Abrams, it will be a strong indication that a silent coup has occurred and that Trump will stand aside as the Deep State controls foreign policy. Preliminary indications are that that has already happened. Trump, left to his own devices, is simply too unpredictable a warmonger and they are bringing in the pros to make sure the job gets done as planned.

    NORTH/WEISS- “The sad lesson of the Abrams job interview is that rightwing American nationalism and Jewish nationalism are completely copacetic under Trump.”

    Other than “kill” a dead TPP, we will see if Trump does anything to significantly hinder neoliberal globalization. Actions speak louder than words, and I would not pay too much attention to his dishonest Tweets. All of these people are accomplished liars. They wouldn’t have succeeded if they weren’t.

    • JWalters
      February 7, 2017, 7:55 pm

      “it will be a strong indication that a silent coup has occurred”

      There are other indications of a silent coup, in America’s financial sector, described in “The Quiet Coup” by Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
      http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/7364/

      • Boomer
        February 8, 2017, 5:26 am

        An excellent point, JWalters. “The Quiet Coup” was sadly accurate and alarming when it appeared in 2009. I suppose some foolish people (myself, for example), hoped it might prompt a change for the better. After all, Obama promised hope and change. Instead, we have gone from bad to worse. The recent election can be seen, in part, as an ineffective reaction from the Lumpenproletariat, who roused from their passive state to elect a false prophet in clown’s clothing, another oligarch.

    • broadside
      February 7, 2017, 9:18 pm

      “If Trump selects Abrams, it will be a strong indication that a silent coup has occurred and that Trump will stand aside as the Deep State controls foreign policy. Preliminary indications are that that has already happened.”

      Brad Park tells of how he once saved Derek Sanderson, longtime Rangers’ nemesis, from serious injury, reaching out to block Sanderson from sliding head-first into the boards. Park then headed back up ice, and Sanderson tripped him.

      I’d like to see a team composed of Abrams, Ross, Kagan, Kristol… And I’d like to see the other team beat the shit out of them.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    February 7, 2017, 9:29 pm

    RE: “Abrams is responsible for murders in Central America…” ~ North & Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Some might even say Abrams is responsible for having abetted genocide in Central America.*

    * SEE: “An Actual American War Criminal May Become Our Second-Ranking Diplomat” | By Eric Alterman | thenation.com | Feb. 2, 2017
    Elliott Abrams spent the Reagan years abetting genocide—now, he has been floated as Trump’s deputy secretary of state.
    • LINK – https://www.thenation.com/article/an-actual-american-war-criminal-may-become-our-second-ranking-diplomat/

    P.S.
    ■ STOP ELLIOTT ABRAMS!
    by Eric Garris, Posted on February 6, 2017
    TO: ALL PEACE ADVOCATES
    FROM: THE STAFF OF ANTIWAR.COM
    RE: STOP ELLIOTT ABRAMS!
    LINK – https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2017/02/06/stop-elliott-abrams/

  8. Bandolero
    February 8, 2017, 12:07 am

    So Elliot Abrams got an interview for the state dept no 2 job? Fine. Rudy Giuliani got one for state, just as John Bolton has and James Woolsey hoped to become DNI.

    But, surprise, surprise, despite the usual fake news sites from NYT over CNN to WaPo listing them as “top contenders” none of them got a relevant job. James Woolsey even stepped down as “advisor” after he noticed he got out empty, saying he doesn’t want no longer pretend to belong in any way to Trumps inner circle where things that matter are discussed.

    Now Elliot Abrams. If he wants to be a contender for a job he has to praise Trump first. He has to make a fool of himself to do that. And, then, of course, someone else will get the job.

    As per Breitbart, who are usually well informed on US politics nowadays:

    Exclusive — Rand Paul to Oppose Elliott Abrams for State Department Slot

    Paul’s decision to come out against Abrams strikes a damaging blow against his chances… With 21 members—11 Republicans and 10 Democrats—if the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hold strong against Abrams should Trump select him, Paul’s vote would be the deciding vote and he would fail in Committee. … Given how difficult Paul’s decision here would make it to get Abrams through the Senate to confirmation should he be nominated, it’s unclear if Trump and his White House would want to go to such lengths to fight for someone who disagrees with the president on so many core policy visions. Abrams does not believe in an “America First” foreign policy vision, is from a wing of the GOP that Trump regularly criticizes, and has significant disagreements with Trump’s stated vision on core matters…

    So, despite of the fake news sites all reporting his chances are good, fuggedaboutit. Of course, an interview is fine, so to make people see that he pays Trump due respect, but the job will be very likely for someone else.

    The bigger question I see is who advised Elliot Abrams to apply for the job and make a fool of himself?

  9. Boomer
    February 8, 2017, 5:15 am

    Depressing, but not surprising.

  10. AddictionMyth
    February 8, 2017, 8:50 am

    Aka “Returning to the scene of the crime.” It’s over.

  11. Ronald Johnson
    February 8, 2017, 10:00 am

    I find it amazing that Elliot Abrams is reinforcing the anti-Jewish preachings of Revilo Pendleton Oliver, Henry Ford, Karl Marx. Zionism for Abrams rather resembles Ayrianism.

    • Mooser
      February 8, 2017, 1:00 pm

      .“Zionism for Abrams rather resembles Ayrianism.”

      Yeah, but without “strength-through-joy”, which really takes all the fun out of it.

  12. James Canning
    February 8, 2017, 1:51 pm

    Will Abrams serve as the agent of fanatical Zionists in the US, who want Israel to attempt to annex the entire West Bank? No matter how much damage this does to the US.

  13. farhad
    February 8, 2017, 1:51 pm

    He looks like the devil! I remember him from days of Contra aid when he would double down on defending Reagan’s policy in Central America no matter what. He even lied to Congress under oath. A real Arab-Muslim hater too. A good fit for Trump’s White House.

  14. brent
    February 8, 2017, 8:05 pm

    If Abrams gets the job, it should serve as a serious wake up call to Palestine and its supporters to get creative. America, as a system of competing interests, can be influenced.

    That Israel funded and armed Hamas at its inception was a clear indication violence was a desirable/necessary ingredient for its program. The violence Israel has encouraged has blocked/prevented activists from making headway in the political arena.

    Israel’s new land grab law will help change the equation. Lets hope anger against it doesn’t generate new violence that can negatively affect the equation.

  15. Boomer
    February 11, 2017, 6:33 am

    Re: “The sad lesson of the Abrams job interview is that rightwing American nationalism and Jewish nationalism are completely copacetic under Trump, [as long as they don’t criticize Mr. Trump].

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/us/politics/trump-wall-21-billion-dollars.html?_r=0

    BTW: why doesn’t NYT use upper case for the “i” in Aipac? Isn’t this anti-semitic?

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