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National Security & Defense

The GOP and the Israeli Exception

It has often been suggested, and with good reason, that Pat Buchanan’s campaigns in the 1990s prefigured Donald Trump’s. Trump has made the protectionism and opposition to immigration that Buchanan championed a much stronger presence in the Republican party. If Trump has not taken aboard Buchanan’s anti-interventionist foreign policy, he has at least shown great skepticism about foreign interventions designed to promote democracy and human rights overseas. Whether one likes or dislikes these ideas — or picks and chooses among them — you have to say that Buchananism has been ascending. Buchanan himself summed up his influence thus last year: “The ideas made it. But I didn’t.”

There is, however, one great exception, and that is U.S. policy toward Israel. Buchanan has, to put it mildly, not been a fan of the U.S. alliance with Israel. That issue has hardly been peripheral to his politics. He has returned to it in column after column. It has occasioned some of the great controversies of his career, as when he said in 1990 that the only two groups “beating the drums” for war against Iraq were “the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”

Republicans are now more pro-Israel, and more tightly allied with the Likud party, than they were when Buchanan made his first presidential run. President Trump is less Buchananite on this issue than George W. Bush, who in turn was less so than his father. To his credit, Buchanan is sticking to his guns rather than kowtowing to his political heir. But on this issue, which over the years he has given every sign of considering crucial, he seems to have had no influence on Republicans at all.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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