The Slatest

Good News for Trump: Israel’s Conflict With the Palestinians Is All About Real Estate

The list of reasons why Donald Trump should not be president is long enough to fill the Talmud, but Thursday night Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have found two that should resonate with Republicans: He’s against letting people die in the streets for lack of health care, and he’s said he’d be even-handed in the Middle East.

Toward the end of the debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer went after Trump for saying he’d remain “neutral” when negotiating between Israel and the Palestinians. “How do you remain neutral when the U.S. considers Israel to be America’s closest ally in the Middle East?” Blitzer asked.

In response, Trump, as he often does, departed completely from GOP orthodoxy. “As president … there is nothing I would rather do than to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally,” he said. “I think it serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy. Now, I may not be successful in doing it, it’s probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind. It doesn’t help if I start saying I’m very pro–Israel.”

Rubio clearly thought he had his nemesis cornered: “He thinks the Palestinians are a real estate deal! The Palestinians are not a real estate deal,” he excitedly sputtered. In fact, though, Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is all about real estate. It’s not a clash of civilizations; it’s two peoples fighting over the same little patch of desert. It’s a war being fought with maps and land deeds and fanatical squatters. It would be nice if American politicians could acknowledge that, though I suspect that Trump’s deviation from standard GOP fealty to the Likud party was enabled by his barely concealed white supremacism. His white nationalist fans certainly heard it that way. “How many fucking Jews do they think there are in the U.S.?” tweeted @_AltRight_, to which @whiteloveforall responded, “they are all bought and sold by jew money, it has nothing to do about voting !” Now we’ll find out if ordinary Republican voters are as indifferent to Zionism as they are to the rest of conservative ideology.

Read more Slate coverage of the GOP primary.