When I was Rabbi at Oxford for 11 years, I hosted an annual lecture that was delivered by a Nobel Peace laureate. For some of those years it was sponsored by Edmond Safra in memory of his late, elder brother Elie. We agreed that the speech would be delivered by someone who made a vast contribution to world peace and won the prize.
Among the Nobel peace prize recipients we hosted were Elie Wiesel, twice, Mikhail Gorbachev, Joseph Rottblatt, Shimon Peres, and Yitzchak Rabin, who speech was canceled a few hours before it was delivered because the first of the horrific bus bombings that followed the Oslo Peace Accords for which he won the prize.
I have been around many other recipients of the prize, from Desmond Tutu to Jodi Williams to Henry Kissinger. A big highlight was the stage I shared with perhaps the world’s most celebrated living recipient of the prize, the Dalai Lama, in Birmingham, Alabama, where a heckler interrupted his speech and I publicly shouted him down.
Through all these experiences I was conscious of the fact that I was in the presence of a recipient of the world’s most prestigious prize, but also that the prize had been severely compromised in recent years.
The worst example was the bloodstained hands of Yasser Arafat, the father of modern terrorism, receiving the prize, which undermined a piece of the prize forever.
But other examples included recipients who were good men but who were given the prize simply because they were favorites of the Nobel committee, while having done nothing to receive it.
President Barack Obama, of course, comes immediately to mind — and to his credit, he never really believed he deserved it either, his sole achievement at the time being the fact that he wasn’t George W. Bush, whom the committee hated.
I suspect they hate Trump, too, but if Trump is denied the prize in October it will further erode the credibility of the world’s most prestigious award.
This prize is not about whether you love or hate Trump. It’s about the man or woman who had done more to advance the cause of peace than any other over the past year.
The Israel-United Arab Emirates peace treaty is transformative. Unlike the peace accords between Israel and Egypt and Jordan, it is not a freezing-cold peace. Unlike Jimmy Carter’s Camp David accords, it does not require that Israel return vast tracts of land that were conquered in a defensive war. Unlike Bill Clinton’s efforts between Israel and Jordan, it heralds not only a relationship between Israel and a single neighbor, but a transformative new era in the entire Middle East.
For decades, the region has been defined by the three “T’s”: tyranny, terrorism, and tribalism. Israel’s enemies have been allowed to scapegoat the Jewish state as the reason for the region’s conflicts, something into which the Obama administration naively bought.
The Gulf states are not so blind. They know that the cancer in the region is the government of Iran and its expansionist, revolutionary vision for Mullah-based Middle East hegemony. That’s the principal reason that President Trump has been successful in the Middle East where Obama failed. Obama elevated Iran and made the Gulf states distrust him. Trump did precisely the opposite, discarding the Iran deal and increasing sanctions against the terror-funding regime. That bought the confidence of the Gulf states and earned the Trump administration unique credit in pushing them toward Israeli peace.
Over the last few years we’ve seen winners of the Nobel Peace Prize who are not widely known to the public. Those who are well known are often celebrated — not necessarily for making peace, but for heroic acts that sent a message to monsters who harm innocents, like the 2014 choice of Malala Yousafzai for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
The greatest American of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr., was chosen for the prize not because he brought peace – just look at the racial strife that is tearing America apart – but to acknowledge his heroic struggle for racial justice.
Mother Theresa won the prize for her outstanding humanitarian work in Calcutta. The Dalai Lama did not bring peace to Tibet. It is occupied by an authoritarian China till today. Rather, he won the prize for advocating peace.
Don’t get me wrong. These are all extremely worthy recipients. But the prize’s ultimate purpose is not just to celebrate great individuals or achievements but to celebrate those who bring peace.
Trump is different to many of those I just mentioned. He is polarizing, lacks universal popularity, and is hated by the liberal elites. But he has actually brought peace. He has brought peace to the world’s most troubled region. He has brought peace to Arabs and Jews who have been at war since before Israel’s creation. He has changed the outlook of the Arab world toward Israel, making them see in the Jewish state an ally and friend, and not an adversary.
The Middle East landscape before and after Trump is utterly unrecognizable. Before Trump, you had Iran on the ascendancy; America’s allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, feeling abandoned; and Bashar Al Assad butchering anyone he liked with Barack Obama barely uttering a peep.
Now, with the Trump presidency, Iran is nearly bankrupt. The Gulf States are making peace with Israel. Assad has twice been struck by American missiles after he gassed innocent Muslims who are his very own citizens. Trump stepped in to protect Arab children.
I was in Oslo last November. I visited the Grand Hotel where the Nobel Peace Laureate stays in the beautiful suite with a balcony from which he is cheered in a torch-lit parade. The members of the Nobel Committee in Norway have just a few weeks to decide whom it will place on that balcony this October.
The decision should be based not on what colleagues at champagne receptions might think of them, but on which person did the most to ensure that there is less war and greater peace.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of the World Values Network and the author of 33 books, including Judaism for Everyone.