Possibly one of the most contentious subjects on which he has commented is that of Israel and broader Middle Eastern policy. Trump’s stance on these issues is difficult to understand for many, because unlike many previous incumbents of the Oval office: he is not heavily blinkered by an insane pro-Israel bias.
Now you might immediately and vehemently disagree with me on that.
You’d probably mention Trump’s choice of ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and how he is a pro-settler nutter who calls less radical Zionists ‘kapos’. (1)
You’ll also probably talk about how Trump has repeatedly referred to himself as Israel’s ‘best friend’ (2) and has pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (3)
You could also mention the fact that Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump – his older children – have all married jews and, in the case of Ivanka, converted to Orthodox Judaism.
All of this is true, but think about who Trump and his family members are: they are business people.
They live, work and breath a certain hard-nosed logic that means they will do whatever it takes to get ahead in a given environment.
In other words: in the world we live in, and especially the mini-universe of New York’s social and financial elite, it is a great advantage to have business dealings and connections to the jewish community.
That doesn’t mean that the Donald doesn’t have principles, but rather that in order to make money and be successful. He has had to put aside personal feelings and preferences to make the connections he needed to in order to make it and then sustain his success in the cutthroat New York business world.
Does Donald Trump have principles?
I think so and as much is obvious when you notice how he ran his Presidential campaign.
He did so working on the simple but apparently controversial principle: America First.
Could that be callous self-serving rhetoric as his many opponents and critics have repeatedly suggested?
Certainly, but the fact that the Donald has immediately acted on issues of substance to the electorate and in such a way as is consistent with his America First position belies this. The border wall is well on the way to being built, (4) widespread deportations of illegal immigrants have begun, (5) jobs have been kept in America for workers (6) and so on.
This thus suggests that Trump does actually mean what he says.
However think about his expressed attitude to Israel and on the Middle East in general.
To be sure Trump doesn’t want to wipe Israel of the map and has made them some promises, but think about what those promises are. Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a purely symbolic move that keeps the Israeli government and its lobby happy, but yet concedes nothing.
Indeed Trump can even claim ‘logistical difficulties’ are preventing him from doing so should he wish to as the media have pointed out. (7)
Despite appointing the ardent pro-settler lawyer David Friedman to be the Ambassador to Israel; Trump hasn’t yet allowed Israel to annex illegal settlements from the Palestinian territory. (8)
Strange if Friedman was a real political player and not a symbolic pawn: no?
Indeed the Donald has been extremely cagey about the whole situation and appears to be deliberately restricting and reducing Israel’s demands. (9) All while keeping a firm boot on the Israeli Prime Minister’s neck concerning who calls the shots (10) as well as keeping Israeli public opinion on his side. (11)
What this means is that while Trump has made all the right noises towards Israel and its lobby in the United States, he has in actuality done very little for them and merely offered them symbolic – not real – gestures of support.
The fact that Trump – in-spite of claiming to be the ‘best friend’ of Israel – has talked directly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has endorsed a two-state solution (12) rather suggests that the Donald is fobbing off Israel and its lobby, while building himself into a position to force a solution onto the Israeli government and neuter its lobby in the United States.
Indeed it has recently emerged that Israeli intelligence may have been listening in to the Donald’s private conversation with Abbas. (13)
If true this would call into question the ability of US security infrastructure to withstand acts of Israeli espionage and give the Trump administration a mandate to conduct some ruthless ‘corporate restructuring’ in the US intelligence community.
Thus allowing the Donald to replace the many neo-conservative dinosaurs and Israel First apparatchiks in that community with personnel would put their country’s safety and integrity before that of another country’s interests.
Evidence of this isn’t hard to come by when you look at the way that the Israeli government is absolutely desperate to talk to Trump and ‘win him’ to their side. This is a significant sea change from the condescending and arrogant attitude formally adopted by Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians towards Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Netanyahu has described Trump as a ‘true friend of Israel’ (14) and Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister, has done similar, (15) while also trying to sell the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to the Donald. (16)
The key here is that while Netanyahu and Lieberman are busy trying to cosy up to the Donald and he keeps stalling them. To give you some idea; Netanyahu and Lieberman are both apparently finding it difficult to nail the Donald down on giving them the green light to what they want, but he gives them just enough bait to ensure that they keep coming back for me in the hope he will finally give them the green light to execute their plans. (17)
Meanwhile domestically the Israel Lobby is deeply conflicted about Trump. He simply won’t do what they want him to do, because he doesn’t operate as a politician but rather a businessman. He doesn’t want to cut a deal with them or to get rich quick; he won’t do anything that he doesn’t think is in the interests of the United States.
That makes him next to impossible for them to control and even more so considered that the traditional instrument for forcing rebellious political figures into line has been the mass media, which of course is almost completely discredited on the subject of Trump.
So instead of calling out and challenging the Israel Lobby directly: the Donald begins using budget cuts to undermine their political power.
Take for example the cutting the ‘Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism’, which is a paid job to basically spread pro-Israel propaganda and ‘Holocaust’ guilt trips around the world under the official seal and protection of the US President’s office on Uncle Sam’s dime.
So what does the Donald do?
He cuts the position as part of a drive to reign in unnecessary spending.
The Israel Lobby then goes mad and accuses Trump of being ‘anti-Semitic’ and dog-whistling to the AltRight. (18)
Trump simply ignores the Israel Lobby like they are irrelevant and not worth his time and nothing happens.
There isn’t a grassroots rebellion against Trump, but the Israel Lobby’s incessant anti-Trump bleating causes them to be identified with the ‘Never Trump’ camp by many Trump supporters.
This is beautifully demonstrated during the St. Louis cemetery vandalism fiasco in that Trump didn’t himself turn up, but sent Vice President Mike Pence to make a speech and symbolically ‘help tidy up’. (19)
Normally a President would turn up after the Israel Lobby and the jewish community began ‘demanding action’. (20)
The Donald merely said he was ‘disappointed’ (21) and offered a general statement that the matter would be investigated but implied that the jews themselves were also possibly responsible. (22)
Similarly Mike Pence – not the Donald – is to speak at AIPAC – the signature conference of the Israel Lobby – (23) which in itself is a significant political earthquake as the signal it sends to the lobby is that it isn’t worth the Donald’s time to talk to them.
Can you imagine George Bush or Barack Obama daring to miss an AIPAC conference?
I bet you can’t.
You see my point.
The Donald’s strategy is simple.
He knows that the key to Israeli power in Washington D.C. is the synergy between the Israeli government and the lobby’s personnel.
So he placates the Israeli government with vague promises, symbolic gestures and the occasional bit of meat just to keep them thinking that a big payday is coming. So the Hasbara mask of Israeli reasonableness and diplomacy falls off as jewish politicians desperately scramble to present Trump with their ‘Final Solutions’ for the Palestinian and Iranian questions in the hope that he will ‘green light’ their prescribed remedies and ensure their place in history.
The Donald then publicly snubs the Israel Lobby and doesn’t do what they want him to, but yet also gives them just enough attention that they can’t accuse him of anything other than a vague irreverence to their interests.
Meanwhile Trump quietly begins removing the bastions of power of the Israel lobby – such as the ‘Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism’ – on pretexts that are difficult to publicly disagree with such as ‘budget cuts’. Thus weakening the Israel Lobby and breaking the synergy between the Israeli government and the lobby by creating a wedge of divergent interests between them.
The Israeli government then begins pushing radical policies that are by any standard a public relationships nightmare if not a case of mass suicide for the Hasbara effort. This directly conflicts with the liberal domestic policies promoted in the United States by the Israel Lobby, which in turn finds it harder and harder to walk the tight rope of credibility between aggressively defending Israel and promoting these liberal domestic policies in the United States.
In essence Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do: putting America First.
Where are his Machiavellian tactics from?
Well they are straight out of ‘The Art of the Deal’, which I am sure Netanyahu and his ilk have never bothered to actually read.
The Donald has taken the measure of the Israeli government and its lobby and is slowly and methodically taking them apart, because he realises that they are a major source of opposition to his implementation of America First policies in both domestic and foreign affairs.
He isn’t anti-Israel in any way, shape or form, but what he is opposed to is Israel and its lobby trying to tell him how to run the United States.
And you know what?
Donald Trump is winning and long may it stay that way.
It is time to Make America Great Again my friends.
(2) http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/trump-israel-worst-nightmare-netanyahu-214565; http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/208589
(9) http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-israel-discussing-settlement-restrictions-state-department/; http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.775832
(10) https://www.rt.com/news/379676-us-israel-west-bank-annexation/; http://www.timesofisrael.com/amid-annexation-talk-white-house-urges-reasonableness/
(17) Ibid; http://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-said-to-seek-us-approval-for-new-settlement-from-trump-envoy/; http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Israeli-Defense-Minister-welcomed-at-the-Pentagon-483553; http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.776450
(18) https://www.thejc.com/comment/comment/trump-it-s-time-we-faced-up-to-reality-1.434169; https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/03/13/congress-jewish-groups-oppose-trumps-plan-to-axe-antisemitism-envoy/; http://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-considering-nixing-anti-semitism-envoy-as-part-of-budget-plan-report/; http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/364343/trump-may-eliminate-anti-semitism-envoy-in-budget-cuts/