Nine months into Donald Trump’s administration in the US, the advantages to Israel look meager compared with expectations.
Nine months have now passed since Donald Trump was inaugurated president of the United States. Can any sort of pattern be discerned about any aspect of administration policy, domestic or foreign? On the domestic side, he has tried to implement several of his campaign promises, with mixed results, and those results entirely the result of executive orders, the extensive use of which by the Obama administration he had criticized. Immigration reform and Obamacare health policy reform he has implemented partially through executive action. So far nothing has been accomplished in the area of tax reform, but the jury is still out on that one.
In the international arena, the Trump administration has taken anti-free trade steps and may take others, in Asia and Latin America. It has had no success whatever in countering aggressive moves by North Korea, China or Russia. In the Middle East, however, steps have been taken and in some cases avoided, which are of significance. These include rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, continued military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, despite campaign promises, and most significantly, the so-called “decertification” of the Iran deal.
The refusal to support the government of the Kurdish region of Iraq in its dispute with the Iraqi government, besides being a moral outrage, can only be considered a continuation of the Obama policy of punishing friends while favoring enemies. There is no doubt that if the US had told the Iraqis not to attack Kirkuk they would not have done so. Along the same lines is the financial penalty imposed on the al-Sisi government of Egypt as a result of its civil rights record, overlooking its strong domestic and regional anti-extremist and anti-terrorist actions.
What of Israel? Campaign promises included recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, concentrating on Israel’s regional role at the expense of the will-o-the-wisp of the “two-state solution” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in general terms greatly improving relations with Israel, which were toxic during the Obama administration.
The Israeli government and much of the Israeli public were ecstatic when Trump unexpectedly won the election of November 2016. In the nine months since his inauguration, what has actually happened? The American embassy is still in Tel Aviv, and Trump has bought into the delusion that a “deal” is possible between the Palestinian Authority and Israel (reportedly on the urging of Ron Lauder), so that much diplomatic energy is totally wasted in this quixotic quest. On the positive side, there is the decertification of Iranian compliance with the infamous “deal”, and with exquisitely bad timing the American withdrawal from UNESCO, copy-catted by Jerusalem, just before a French Jewish woman was elected head of that body. A short list indeed, since the Iranian decertification decision was made due to a Trump pledge that had nothing particularly to do with Israel, and a UNESCO decision that will very likely be reversed before it goes into effect. Yes, the general atmosphere of US-Israeli relations has improved, but that is about it.
The Trump administration is less than a year old, but as of now, the answer to the question posed in the title of this column, has got to be “yes.”
On the other hand, it is not a bad thing when anticipatory euphoria is replaced by hard reality. Operating on the basis of the first can only lead to disappointment; operating on the basis of reality leads to the achievement of limited, but realistic, goals. Military, security and intelligence cooperation continues, as indeed it did under Obama, and that is what really counts at the end of the day.
This article was originally published in Globes.