Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Donald Trump's shock victory - the view from Israel and the Mideast

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Update from AIJAC

Nov. 10, 2016

Update 11/16 #01

Following Donald Trump's shock upset win in Tuesday's US Presidential election, this Update canvasses how Israelis and others in the Middle East are reacting to the reality of the upcoming Trump presidency, and in particular, focuses on their initial analyses of what it might mean for the region.

We lead off with some thoughts from Times of Israel editor David Horovitz. He notes that, according to the polls, Israelis would have have preferred Hillary Clinton, despite a plurality believing that Trump's policies might be better for Israel - perhaps because of Trump's controversial stances and personal behaviour. Horovitz then discusses how Trump rates on the three characteristics Israelis looks for in a US President - an emotional empathy for Israel, an understanding of the challenging regional context in which Israel exists, and a willingness to have Israel's back in times of need. For his evaluation in full, CLICK HERE. Another interesting Israeli response to the Trump phenomenon comes from columnist Ben Dror Yemini.

Next up, Jerusalem Post political affairs correspondent Herb Keinon looks at what the Netanyahu government may be thinking now that Trump has won the White House. Firstly, he notes they will be aware that while Trump struck the right notes during the campaign, he is pretty much a blank slate and wild card on Israel policy - though his running mate Mike Pence has a strong record. However, Keinon argues, Netanyahu will be pleased both that the Republicans control Congress as well as the White House, and that Trump has been critical of the Iranian nuclear deal, and is certainly not invested in it in the way both key officials in the Obama Administration were, and those of a Clinton Administration might have been. Finally, he notes the concerns that exist in Jerusalem that Trump's election may prompt outgoing President Obama to undertake a Middle East initiative Jerusalem will not like over the next two months. For Keinon's astute analysis in full, CLICK HERE. More on the possibility of a major Obama Administration initiative on the Middle East over the next two months comes from some experts consulted by The Algemeiner newspaper.

Finally, Avi Issacharoff reports that, despite his rhetoric about Muslim immigration, Trump's election win is getting surprisingly good press in the Sunni Arab states. He notes that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States blame the Obama Administration for supporting the Arab Spring and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, including former Secretary of State Clinton, and were thus happy to see her defeated, never mind by whom. He notes that pro-Muslim Brotherhood states like Turkey and Qatar are adopting a wait and see attitude, Iran is also remaining cautious, while the Palestinians are generally disappointed. For this survey of regional reaction, CLICK HERE

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Article 1

President-elect Trump — a tsunami and its consequences

 

Op-ed: Candidate Trump incited against nations and faiths. His campaign veered close to anti-Semitism. He has an awful history of rhetoric, and allegedly of behavior, regarding women. It’s fanciful to expect that he will now undergo a personal metamorphosis

 



Times of Israel, November 9, 2016, 3:30 pm

Not all of us were wrong. Some of us did not discount Donald J. Trump’s prospects of winning the US presidency. Some of us thought he performed well enough in the debates to legitimize his candidacy among wavering voters, and recognized the appeal to bitter and frustrated Americans of his proffered no-nonsense solutions to their ostensible ills. Some of us internalized the spectacular animus to Hillary Clinton — as the figurehead of a loathed establishment, and as a woman.

Not all of us placed great confidence in the opinion polls that relentlessly forecasted a Clinton victory. Watching from these shores — where the reputation of public opinion surveys was battered by the wrong call in 1996 that had Shimon Peres elected prime minister, was further eroded by inaccuracies over the following two decades, and was buried with risible exit polls in 2015 that saw Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union handsomely beating Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud — it did not seem particularly implausible that the experts had it all wrong, that their samplings were inaccurate, that too much faith was being placed in their algorithms.

But as America voted decisively on Tuesday to be led by Trump, none of that makes the result any less dramatic.

The American people have spoken, loud and clear. They have chosen, eyes wide open, a man with no political experience. But okay, he could surround himself with expertise, and could prove to have the kind of gut instinct for the right calls that made Ronald Reagan (who, of course, was not just a movie actor, but had governed California) such a successful president.

They have chosen a president strong on punchy soundbites but short on detailed policies. Again, though, he will be able to reach out in any and every direction for the wisest input as he oversees America’s path ahead domestically and internationally.

They have also chosen a person strikingly lacking in grace. A rabble-rouser. A candidate who vowed to jail his opponent. A nominee who incited against nations and faiths. A leader some of whose supporters’ behavior lapsed into anti-Semitism, and some of whose own oratory and campaign material went dangerously close. A man with an awful history of rhetoric, and allegedly of behavior, regarding women. A figure beyond the pale for some in the leadership of his own party. It’s fanciful to expect that he will now undergo a personal metamorphosis.

The people have spoken, proving yet again that democracy is truly the worst form of government, as Churchill noted… except for all of those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

For Netanyahu, the crowning of an ally with a shared worldview

If the pollsters are to be believed — though why would they be? — Israelis would have preferred a president Hillary Clinton. In part, I imagine, that was because of distaste for him; after all, they told the same pollsters, they thought his policies might be better for Israel than hers. In part, too, they presumably figured they’d know where they’d be with her. For us, as for America and the rest of the world, it’s a blank slate now. The president-elect has no governing record, no voting record, as an indication of future behavior.

We in Israel have always prized three qualities in American presidents. First, as a country dependent on our alliance with the US, we look for a president who has gut empathy for the Jewish state — an appreciation of our legitimacy, and a personal commitment to ensuring our survival. Second, we hope for a president who is deeply aware of the challenges we face in the ruthless Middle East, a region where not everybody wants to live and let live, and where many are being brainwashed to kill and be killed. And third, we seek a president who will reliably have our back — at all times, but especially in our hours of need. We don’t ask the citizens of any country but our own to risk their lives in our defense, but we do rely on American support — militarily, diplomatically, economically, morally — to ensure that we are capable of defending ourselves.

Has Donald Trump evinced an emotional affinity for Israel? Does he recognize the evil that men can do in this and other parts of the world? Will he be reliably in our corner?

On the first two questions, even many of his critics would acknowledge that the reasonable answer is yes. On the third, we will gradually find out — as we, America and the rest of the world become familiar with a reality that many self-styled experts refused to so much as contemplate: President Trump.



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Rather desperately, Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog rushed on Wednesday to depict the victory as evidence of a global shift that will ultimately benefit him, describing the election result as part of an “economic, social and leadership tsunami, affecting many countries, that will also lead to change in Israel.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it can be safely stated, sees Trump’s win rather differently — as the crowning of an ally who shares his belief in projecting strength, and who broadly shares his thinking on the Iran nuclear deal and the Palestinian conflict, the two issues at the heart of his frictions with President Barack Obama.

Within hours of victory being confirmed, indeed, various coalition members were hailing president-elect Trump as one of their own. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted her happy anticipation of the Trump-promised relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “the era of a Palestinian state is over,” given Trump’s position to this effect “as written in his platform.”

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. Because Herzog is right about one thing. Trump’s election to the most powerful office in the free world is a tsunami, all right. And there’s simply no knowing its consequences.

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Article 2

 

ANALYSIS: Trump and Israel, now what?


Herb Keinon

Jerusalem Post

SAN FRANCISCO - “I love Israel and honor and respect the Jewish tradition and it’s important we have a president who feels the same way,” US President-elect Donald Trump said in a pre-recorded video message to a rally held two weeks ago in a restaurant overseeing the Old City.

“My administration will stand side-by-side with the Jewish people and Israel’s leaders to continue strengthening the bridges that connect, not only Jewish Americans and Israelis, but also all Americans and Israelis,” he said. “Together we will stand up to enemies, like Iran, bent on destroying Israel and her people, together we will make America and Israel safe again."

Now we will see.

The unexpected, improbable, against-the-odds victory Tuesday of Trump over Hillary Clinton undoubtedly shocked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem as much as it shocked leaders in capitals throughout the world. Now Netanyahu and his aides will have to begin figuring out what exactly it means for Israel.

And that will not be an easy chore, considering that Trump does not have any real practical record on Israel.

 While Netanyahu obviously had policy differences with Clinton, at least he knew where she stood and what to expect. Israeli policy-makers, in general, like the predictable; they like to know what they are getting, even if it is not everything they want, because at least in this regard they know how to prepare. Clinton was a known-commodity because she has been involved for so long at a policy level on Israel-related issues. There was a degree of predictability regarding how she would act, and who she could be expected to bring on board her national security team.

No such predictability exists with regard to Trump. He is a blank slate; a wild card.

While during the campaign Trump hit the right rhetorical buttons when it comes to Israel --, though he also raised some eyebrows by talking at one stage about US “neutrality” in the conflict with the Palestinians and at another about the need for US allies to pay more of their share of US military assistance – he has no track record. Being the grand marshall of the Israel Day Parade in Manhattan is commendable, but it is  not the same as having dealt over the years with the nitty-gritty of Mideast issues..

That being the case there are certain elements of a Trump presidency that had to have Netanyahu smiling on Wednesday morning.

The first is Trump's running mate, Mike Pence. The former Indiana governor and congressman  is an Evangelical Christian and strong supporter of Israel. He stated at that rally in Jerusalem two weeks ago – shortly after UNESCO voted to expunge any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount – that Jerusalem is the “eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” He called Israel America's  “most cherished ally,” and said that he and Trump stand with Israel because “Israel's fight is our fight, because Israel's cause is our cause.” And, unlike Trump, he has a long record of political support for Israel.

Pence is not the only reason Netanyahu is smiling. He is also smiling because the Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate. During the last eight rocky years of his relationship with Obama, Netanyahu  found some  solace in having an extremely supportive Congress on his side. And although there was pre-election talk that the Republicans might lose the Senate, that did not transpire.

Netanyahu, who in his more than 10 years as Israeli prime minister has never had the opportunity to work alongside a Republican president, will now get the chance to work not only with a president whose worldview is much closer to his own, but also with a president who will be buttressed by a Republican-held Congress whose support for Israel remains extremely strong.

Netanyahu also had to be smiling because as of January 20 there will be sitting in the White House a man who has trashed the Iranian nuclear deal. Though Trump never promised to scrap the deal,  as some other early Republican candidates did, he has been scathing in his criticism of the deal, and he obviously does not have any emotional investment in it that could possibly blind him to Iranian violations.

It is not clear who will make up Trump's national security team, but it will surely not include those who pushed through the Iranian deal, and are so wedded to that they would do anything to ensure that it succeeds, including overlooking  any Iranian behavior that contravenes the agreement.

The prime minister also had to be smiling because groups such as J Street, a Jewish obbying organization that has encouraged Administration pressure on Israel, will lose much of its impact and influence as a result of the election results.

J Street's influence stems largely from its connections and access to the Administration, whose work if often did.Tellingly, its head Jeremy Ben-Ami borrowed a football metaphor in saying to the New York Times in 2009 that “our No. 1 agenda item is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.”

The job of the “blocking back” is to protect the quarterback. But now that the quarterback has changed, and the playbook will be completely different, the importance of that particular blocking back will be greatly diminished.

Netanyahu has to be smiling as well at some of the names of candidates being bandied about to fill various high profile positions in a Trump administration, first and foremost as the new secretary of state. Among the names being discussed for secretary of state, for example, are former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a leading Trump supporter, and former ambassador to the UN John Bolton.

The appointment of either would be loudly applauded in the Prime Minister's Office, as their outlooks on the region and its threats are very similar to those of Netanyahu. Another leading candidate, current chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), would also be applauded, as he was a leading opponent of the Iran deal.

One of the biggest questions right now is how Trump's' election will impact Obama's decision on what he will do regarding the Mideast in his remaining two and a half months in office.

Four options have been widely discussed: delivering a speech on the Mideast laying down how he sees the parameters of an eventual deal, or supporting one of three moves in the UN.  The three UN options include supporting either a new UN Security Council resolution laying new foundations for peacemaking to essentially replace Security Council Resolution 242; not vetoing another attempt by the Palestinians to get the Security Council to approve their admission into the UN as a state; or supporting  an anti-settlement resolution.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel hopes and expects that the US will abide by its long-standing commitment that peace must be reached in negotiations between the two sides, and will not do anything to support an outside imposition of a solution. But there are those who believe that the likelihood that Obama might do something dramatic on the Mideast in his wanting days in office are greater following a Trump victory, than had there been a Clinton one.

Had Clinton won, this argument runs, Obama would have coordinated his final Mideast moves with her, not wanting to take any step that would complicate her relationship with Netanyahu. By the same token, according to this argument, a Trump victory might unleash an urge on Obama’s behalf to take some dramatic step that would tie the next administration's hands on the issue.

Obama, in his speech Wednesday from the White House Rose Garden, spoke of the importance and need for an orderly transition of power. A dramatic move now on the Mideast, however, would run contrary to that goal, as it would set into stone policies that he knows the incoming administration would oppose.

Finally, the election of Trmp is likely to lead to a continuation and even increased cooperation between Israel and some of its Sunni neighbors, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

What Trump will do in the Mideast is an unknown not only for Israel, but for those countries as well. They, too, do not know the degree to which they can depend on Washington. One of the reasons for the enhanced cooperation between these disparate countries over the last few years has been uncertainty of the degree to which Washington could be relied upon, and  fear of a US withdrawal from the region.  That insecurity will remain for the time being, at least until Trump’s direction in the region becomes clear.

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Article 3

Arabs surprisingly pleased with Trump win


Many Arab states resent Clinton for her support of the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt




Times of Israel, November 9, 2016, 8:32 pm

Reaction in parts of the Middle East on Wednesday to Donald Trump’s surprise election victory was perhaps as unexpected as the win itself.

In Egypt, the leadership, including President Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, had trouble hiding its satisfaction with Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
 
According to Egyptian media, Sissi was the first world leader to call and congratulate Trump. He wished Trump well and expressed the hope that his term would lead to a flourishing of American-Egyptian ties.

What Sissi did not say out loud, but was expressed for him by one of his confidants in the Egyptian parliament, Mustafa Bakri, was that the Trump victory is seen as “a knockout blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.”


Then US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012 (AP/Egyptian Presidency)
 
This satisfaction was echoed in other Arab countries — including the Gulf States, and even Saudi Arabia — where they have not forgotten or forgiven Clinton and US President Barack Obama for their support for the Arab Spring.

Arab leaders have never been able to understand the stance adopted by Clinton, when she was secretary of state, that supported 2012’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

The Egyptian media busied itself Wednesday publishing flattering quotes that Trump has made in the past about Sissi, and describing the “shock” in rival countries like Qatar, which support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Anxious world leaders seek clarity on Trump policies#Worlds #TrumpPresident #ElectionNight https://t.co/eQVNMEmoq4 pic.twitter.com/ecMfrgsjul
— The Peninsula (@PeninsulaQatar) November 9, 2016
 
One of the papers reported at length on the $1 million donation from Qatar to the Clinton Foundation. The Qatari-based Al Arab, by contrast, described Trump’s victory as “an unprecedented political earthquake.”

In the so-called pro-Muslim Brotherhood countries Qatar and Turkey, indeed, reaction was muted, with both adopting a wait-and-see attitude to Trump’s future Middle East policy.

Iran, meanwhile, was certainly not panicking. Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, said that Trump’s election did not necessarily mean that Washington’s policies towards Iran would change, including on the nuclear deal that Trump has so bitterly criticized.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah would have preferred to see Clinton win and push Israel toward restarting peace negotiations where they left off. Still, their disappointment with Obama has also had an effect. For eight years they waited for a real development under him and it never came.

Now, the Palestinians believe there is even a smaller chance that Obama will initiate some kind of dramatic policy move or take up their case at the United Nations Security Council in the last two months of his term.

However, some Palestinian politicians do hold out hope that a Republican president could surprise. They privately note that some GOP presidents in the past — George H.W. Bush, for instance — have taken a tough line on Israel and the settlements. And they argue that Trump will not fulfill his campaign promise to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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