If there’s one thing conservatives hate, it’s “identity politics”: the claim that membership in a particular ethnic, racial or gender group gives someone special authority over policy toward that group. Tell conservatives that women should make abortion policy, or Latinos should make immigration policy, or African Americans should decide whether affirmative action is fair, and they’ll howl.
So how do conservatives feel when Jews — simply because they are Jews — dictate American policy toward Israel? They feel absolutely fine. Donald Trump has proved that.
Consider three of Trump’s key Israel-related appointments: Jared Kushner, David Friedman and Jason Dov Greenblatt. Last November, Trump told The New York Times that Kushner might play a major role in American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. In December, according to The Washington Post, Kushner began doing just that. Along with Steve Bannon, he pressured Egypt’s government to withdraw a United Nations resolution condemning settlements.
Why did Kushner obtain this role? Because he’s Trump’s son-in-law. And because Trump thinks that Kushner knows a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“He knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players,” Trump told the Times.
But that’s not true. When Times’ reporters Peter Baker and Isabel Kershner checked on Trump’s assertion, here’s what they found: “Few of the Israelis and Palestinians who have been immersed for years in the fitful and frustrating peace process, such as it is, could recall ever meeting Mr. Kushner,” and that “phone calls and emails to dozens of politicians, diplomats and journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories yielded few who had actually encountered him.”
So why did Trump think Kushner knows a lot about Israel and Palestine? Most likely, because Kushner is Jewish. Trump assumed that identity equaled insight, which is exactly what conservatives generally hate about identity politics.
Then there’s Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Historically, the position has gone to veteran diplomats. In the 1980s, Thomas Pickering got the job after serving as executive secretary of the State Department, assistant secretary of state and ambassador to El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan. In the 1990s, Edward Walker Jr. took the position after serving as special assistant to the president’s special representative for the Middle East peace negotiations, executive assistant…