Opinion

Trump and Israel: The Wrong Man at the Right Time

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict indeed needs a new paradigm, but Trump's first few days in power indicate that even as president he won’t be very different from Trump the candidate.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order on border security and immigration enforcement, Washington, January 25, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

It’s interesting to see that beneath the Israeli government’s enthusiasm about Donald Trump hides fear, even if still as a conqueror. The fear isn’t of the possibility that Trump will change colors and take a businesslike approach to Israel. On the contrary, his first days in power indicate that even as president he won’t be very different from Trump the candidate.

The fear actually derives from the expectation that he will indeed turn out dedicated to Israel and do everything he said he would. Amid reports that the U.S. administration is considering moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu is playing down his aspirations on this issue. What’s more, it was recently reported that the prime minister has met with the security chiefs to discuss possible scenarios of an eruption.

Netanyahu has also asked to defer the suggestion to annex the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim, which even prime minister-hopeful Yair Lapid supports. Not by chance. Netanyahu knows what right-wingers know deep in their hearts: It’s easy to spread illusions about the territories and rely on players like the Obama administration as an explanation for preventing annexation.

Actually, Israel needs a moderating U.S. administration with the power to mediate. If not, the lie will be revealed: Israel, even with the support of the superpower which could lose its influence as long as it's ruled by someone who promises to make it great again won’t survive in the region if it follows a belligerent and unilateral policy.

Therefore the irony is that Trump won’t turn out to be the savior of the right, but its punishment; after all, a zeal for land can only exist as long as it’s unattainable. Netanyahu is proud, and rightly so, about the relations he has nurtured behind the scenes with Sunni Arab countries. But the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and of course the Palestinians won't accept a unilateral annexation of land, and certainly not with the change in Jerusalem’s status. And a confrontation with the Islamic world over the holy of holies is something even the United States can't save Israel from.

Trump, it's already clear, isn't stupid. He was elected not only as a demagogue but because he identified some of the faults of liberalism and ailments of the American system today. In his inaugural address, he cleverly focused on promises to work for “the people” that is, the average American. While the liberal narrative concentrated on defending minority rights, a “deprived majority” was created the neglected lower-middle classes.

There is cleverness even in the words of the president’s adviser that the fraudulent announcement about the crowd size at the inauguration should be understood as “an alternative fact.” Indeed, the mainstream media’s stressing the low turnout could be changed into stressing the clear Republican victory in the actual election. Hence, “alternative fact” is also a complex subject.

Still, Trump is good at identifying problems but poor at solving them. His promise to keep factories in the United States is a good idea that doesn’t fit with the reality of a global economy and neoliberal policy. No plant would survive if it operated contrary to market conditions as long as there hasn't been a drastic change in the world economy of the type Bernie Sanders has suggested. And Trump, who made his fortune by exploiting the principles of neoliberalism, isn't ready for that.

The conflict also needs a new paradigm. But it's strange to think that unilateral support for the Israeli right wing’s aspirations will renew the road to peace.

Trump is the wrong man at the right time. His tenure will be helpful in making Republicans and enthusiastic Israelis realize that reality is more diverse than his vocabulary.