(JTA) — Announcing that he has agreed to end the partial government shutdown for three weeks, President Donald Trump invoked Israel’s security barrier in defense of what had been his previously non-negotiable demand to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“Israel built a wall, 99.9 percent successful,” Trump said Jan. 25 in a Rose Garden speech announcing that he agreed to reopen the government. “Won’t be any different for us.”
Israel constructed a border fence on the Egyptian frontier beginning in 2010. Observers have said the border there is a fraction of the length of America’s border with Mexico. Democrats in Congress had rejected Trump’s calls for a wall, instead insisting that controlling illegal entry depends on more sophisticated technologies.
Trump in his Rose Garden address said some of these technologies, including drones, would be incorporated into a bill that he said he expected Congress to deliver to him by Feb. 15.
Trump appeared to be unshaken in his faith in a wall, saying at one point that he was open to multiple means of securing the border, but concluded by saying, “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” and threatening to close government again or invoke emergency measures to secure the wall.
Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the wall in the face of Democratic opposition shut down the government for 36 days, sending federal workers, contractors, ancillary businesses and others who depend on government for income scrambling to pay rent, mortgages and for food and other necessities. Jewish federations joined other faith groups in setting up relief, particularly in the Washington, D.C., area, and Jewish organizational leaders decried the shutdown.
“The government shutdown is a moral and religious outrage,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Friday on Twitter before Trump made his announcement. “My Bar Mitzvah portion taught me this long ago: ‘you must pay your workers on the same day before the sun sets for s/he is needy and urgently depends on it.’ Deuteronomy 24:15.”