On his first visit to Israel as president of the United States, Donald Trump offered Israelis a diet that isn’t necessarily healthy, but one that most people would find irresistible. It was consisted almost entirely of sugar and sweets, with very little “protein” in the form of actual substance.
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Trump talked about his wish to bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians, so that both nations can enjoy a better future. He reaffirmed his support for the Jewish state and promised to have its back regardless of the circumstances. He slammed Iran, vowed that it would not develop nuclear weapons under his watch, and compared Hamas to Islamic State. He also spoke effusively about the sort of life that Israeli and Palestinian children deserve to have – free of fear and hatred.
In his speech at the Israel Museum, Trump refrained from stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but spoke at length about the city’s Jewish heritage, stretching back to the days of King David. Those who believe that historical narratives are the most important feature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will view his speech as an important milestone.
One thing, however, was missing from all of Trump’s speeches and appearances during the visit: details. Trump spoke in vague words like “peace” and “love,” but refrained from presenting any specifics. He said again and again that he wants to clinch the “hardest deal,” and that both Israelis and Palestinians are “ready for it,” but stopped short of outlining what that deal would look like.
Even in his meeting in Bethlehem with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the president only hinted in passing at the issue of Palestinian support for families of convicted terrorists, by stating that rewarding terrorism is harmful to peace. He did not, at least in public, either articulate a clear demand to stop this practice or address it directly. On the other hand, he complimented Abbas’ security forces for taking part in the fight against terrorism, and spoke about the importance of developing the Palestinian economy.
The result of all this was that, as Trump departed Ben-Gurion International Airport on the way to his next stop, in Rome – pretty much everyone was happy, or at least relieved. He offered his strong support for Israel, but did not announce that he’s moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as many on Israel’s right predicted and hoped would happen. He spent an hour with Abbas and talked about how an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would be great for the entire region, but did not utter the words “Palestinian state” or “two-state solution.”
For most people, tasty and cloyingly sweet confections bring immediate satisfaction. But everyone understands that these cannot constitute the only part of their diet for too long. Soon Trump will have to start making decisions that actually have some substance in them – such as deciding next week whether or not to sign the traditional “waiver” that delays the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. Once that happens, someone will be angry and disappointed. We just don’t yet know who it will be.
As departed Israel, President Trump was leaving behind him a country in a state of sugar rush. His advisers should know – and prepare him – for the drop that is likely to come right after it.