How bad has it gotten when arguably the most “progressive” presidential candidate on Palestine/Israel—in either party—is the nativist who would ban Muslim visitors to the U.S., close American mosques, enter U.S. Muslims’ names in a national database, and enshrine waterboarding as a national foreign policy pastime? 

Yeah, it’s pretty bad.

But Donald Trump’s recent declaration of neutrality to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough is significant in its sharp contrast to the outpouring of love (of dollars) that nearly every other candidate has slobbered all over Israel and its most Strangelovian defenders since the beginning of the 2016 presidential race.

“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” Trump told the “Morning Joe” host. In most international conflicts, such a statement would be laudable if unsurprising, hardly worth a comment. But in the alternative reality that is our reality, such statements do not go unchallenged, especially from those fawning souls hungry for campaign dollars from pro-Israel billionaire titans Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, Haim Saban and others.

Rivals were quick to pounce. “As president, I have no intention of being neutral,” Ted Cruz oozed with his patented parsimonious disdain. In her own response, Hillary Clinton archly told CNN she “will defend and do everything I can to support Israel.” Clinton’s statements betray the bogus “honest broker” mantle she disingenuously carried as secretary of state.

As for Trump: Let’s not get too excited about a single statement of alleged neutrality from a torture-happy neofascist. Yet in interviews and statements over the last three months, Trump has gone further than simply aspiring to be “sort of a neutral guy.” In a December interview with The Associated Press, he questioned “if Israel has the commitment” to a lasting peace deal: “I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to make it. A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal—whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things.”

In December, Trump appeared in the lion’s den—a meeting of the hard-right, Bibi Netanyahu-loving Republican Jewish Coalition—and indicated, to loud boos, that he did not necessarily support Israel’s dominion over Jerusalem as an “undivided capital.” This is a litmus test for the Republican right, which for years has demanded that the U.S. move its embassy to Jerusalem to cement that reality. Too bad that it would be a death blow to Palestinian dreams of establishing an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Indeed, that’s part of the point: not only to end Palestinian statehood dreams but to undermine what has been the official U.S. position in peace negotiations for more than two decades.

Trump’s statements on Israel predictably prompted the groveling Marco Rubio, in the running for the “Sheldon Adelson primary” of dollars, to suggest that the billionaire candidate didn’t “understand the enduring bond between Israel and America.”

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