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Is This the End of the World?

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Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react at her election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016.
Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react at her election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. Credit: Lucas Jackson, Reuters

Confession number one: I hoped that Donald Trump would be elected. Confession number two: His election frightens me. It’s enough to think about Rudy Giuliani having a top position in his government, and perhaps influencing his policy toward Israel, to really give one the jitters. My partner Catherine has shut herself in her room, even more angry and terrified: She’s worried about the environment and about the future of her country. She’s sure that Trump will destroy the environment, and let Vladimir Putin seize Sweden.

This fear of Trump that is now sweeping the world, and perhaps some of his voters as well – like the Brexit supporters in Britain who subsequently regretted their vote, but to a much greater degree – is fear of the unknown. And fear of the unknowable even more so. This fear recalls the terror of 1977 when Menachem Begin came to power. Half the nation was in a panic, with competing visions of the apocalypse being heard all over. Begin will make war, Begin will bring fascism. Ultimately, Begin did really make war, as any decent Israeli prime minister would, but Begin also made peace, as no other Israeli prime minister before or after him has done. And Begin did not usher in fascism.

I hoped that Trump would be elected because I knew that the election of Hillary Clinton, whose values long ago became distorted, would also mean a continuation of the Israeli occupation. My world is admittedly narrow: The occupation interests me above all else, and to me not much could be worse than a president who would continue to fund it. If she were elected, they should have been popping open the champagne in places like Yitzhar and Itamar. With Haim Saban’s money and the legacy of Barack Obama, America wouldn’t dare exert pressure on Israel. The end of the world, in other words.

Benjamin Netanyahu should be worried too. A Trump who loses interest in the Middle East could also be a Trump who doesn’t support the occupation. The settlers’ rejoicing is premature. It could well turn into a cry of distress. Trump will never be a friend of the Palestinians, of course, just as he will not be a friend of all the world’s weak, but he could turn out to be a true isolationist and as such undo his country’s blind, automatic and bewildering commitment to Israel.

After all, he was elected in large part due to his promise to eliminate political correctness. In America, support for a continuation of the Israeli occupation is politically correct. So in my provincial view, this was reason to hope for a Trump victory.

Trump’s election also frightens me. As so often happens when fantasies come true – the reality is scarier than anticipated. There’s no need to list all his bigoted views, all his incendiary rhetoric, all his terrible character traits. He promised to continue the use of torture in interrogations, to annul the agreement with Iran, to possibly use nuclear weapons. What more is needed to terrify any sane person? His promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem is amusing, though: The American diplomats surely won’t be keen on living in Jerusalem, and moving the embassy probably doesn’t matter much anyway.

One of two things is going to happen: Either Trump will be Trump, or President Trump won’t be the Trump we’ve come to know. He himself probably doesn’t know which it will be. His victory speech Wednesday hinted at the second possibility. If Trump keeps his word and his promises from the election campaign, it will spell a terrible tragedy for America and the world, and perhaps a small hope for Israel: The original Trump wouldn’t hesitate to disregard Israel, and the result could be to its benefit.

Paradoxically, what’s bad for the world and for America could be good for Israel: An ignorant isolationist president who’s uninterested in the world, who wants every country to pay for American aid and is intent on slaughtering sacred cows, could be a president who gives Israel a salutary jolt.

Did Wednesday mark the end of the world? Maybe. Maybe not.

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