Donald Trump’s last 24 hours have Jewish members of the Hollywood community plotzing with outrage.
Despite Trump’s inexperience in foreign affairs, many in the entertainment industry were holding out hope that he could get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations moving again. Unlike former President Barack Obama, Trump has a close, somewhat chummy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also has business relationships in many Arab countries, which could ostensibly be helpful.
But even those who were kvetching about Obama’s policies toward Israel might be having second thoughts now.
“Trump was really well positioned to improve things,” Danielle Berrin, creator of “Hollywood Jew” blog told TheWrap. “Even skeptics thought he could make some headway in the conflict. But that’s looking more and more unlikely.”
The meshugas started on Monday, when Israel’s Channel 2 reported a senior Trump administration official told his Israeli counterparts that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not accompany President Trump during Trump’s upcoming visit to the Western Wall because Judaism’s holiest site was, as he put it, “not your territory.”
Trump’s visit to the wall is of particular interest because he will be the first sitting U.S. president to do so. The Western Wall is the only surviving retaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel captured it along with the rest of the Old City in the 1967 war, and annexed it as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all visited the site, but either before or after their tenures as president.
According to Channel 2, the surly exchange broke out after the unnamed American rejected Israel’s request to have Netanyahu join Trump during his visit to the site, telling the Israeli team: “What are you talking about? It’s none of your business. It’s not even part of your responsibility. It’s not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”
The prime minister’s office told TheWrap in a statement that “the comment that the Western Wall is part of the West Bank was received with astonishment” and that “Israel has asked the US to clarify this.”
The incident quickly made headlines both in Israel and the U.S., forcing Press Secretary Sean Spicer to to publicly walk back the comments.
A follow-up story by the Israeli network identified the diplomat as David Burns, a holdover from the Obama administration, which might have helped Trump — if not for National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster stepping in it again, refusing to tell reporters whether the Western Wall was, in fact, in Israel.
Trump’s biggest troubles were of his own making. On Tuesday, he found himself smack in the middle of yet another kerfuffle involving Israel when the New York Times revealed that the classified intelligence that Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel.
“Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East,” the Times report noted. “The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East.”
“Nothing makes sense anymore,” David Schneiderman, co-owner and founder of Seismic Productions, told TheWrap. “It’s a mess.”
An incredulous Patricia Arquette asked: “Trump supporters thought he would support Israel? When he was courting actual nazis and klansmen? While he maligned ALL Muslims and Latinos?”
Congressman Ted Lieu, who represents the 33rd district in L.A. County, tweeted: “Dear
@POTUS: As a Member of the Foreign Relations Cmte, I want to remind you that Israel is our ally, Russia is not.”
And Ellen DeGeneres’ executive producer Andy Lassner simply wrote: “Dear
@Israel, I hate him too. Andy.”
Even Israelis were yelling “oy, vey.”
“If the president renamed the White House ‘Kremlin-West’ and Washington ‘Putingrad Heights’ – would the GOP finally confront him?” asked noted Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev.
But Berrin says there is at least one silver lining to all of this.
“It would be much more damaging if Trump and Israel were seen as simpatico,” she said, adding that the last 24 hours have put some “daylight between Trump and Netanyahu.”
Perhaps TIME’s Zeke Miller put it best when he said: “Between this and the Western Wall line today, it’s going to be a very interesting trip to Israel next week for POTUS.”