United States President Donald J. Trump wasted no time in making it clear his foreign policy approach will differ from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Even before he officially took office, Trump was actively supporting Israel in the face of pressure from the United Nations and what ultimately turned into an almost unprecedented lack of support by the U.S. in Obama’s final days in office. And within hours of taking office, Trump was already symbolically reversing Obama’s view of one of America’s closest allies. Many are concerned or at least unclear as to what a Trump presidency will mean for the world. But for some nations, it looks to be a breath of fresh air.
The most stunning contrast in foreign diplomacy occurred before Trump took office. While Obama was directing that the U.S. abstain from an anti-Israel vote in the U.N. Security Council, Trump was arguing against the move.
And while former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a lengthy speech justifying that move that assailed Israel’s use of territory liberated in the 1967 war from enemy nations, roughly a month prior Trump’s team was repeatedly sending the message they intended to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—Israel’s true capital and controversially not recognized by the biased Western nations.
And when he took office, Trump scheduled a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for practically the soonest available timeslot—Sunday, the first Israeli workday after Trump’s inauguration.
While Obama also spoke with Netanyahu early into his presidency, that relationship was dicey from the start. Netanyahu has been promising hope and American support from the Trump administration for weeks now.
The Washington Examiner reported that already on his first day in office, President Trump had restored the bust of British leader Winston Churchill to the Oval Office that former President Obama had replaced with Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. Trump personally asked the British that the bust be loaned to the U.S., which was accepted.
Furthermore, new British Prime Minister Theresa May will be the first head of state to visit President Trump. Trump’s repeated support for the British people and their departure from the European Union certainly shows that Trump is revising Obama’s approach to the U.K. and symbolically is seeking to make it clear that America’s top English-speaking ally remains key to the nation’s diplomacy.
What does that have to do with Israel? The quickness of Trump’s move shows a determination to do things different and not let them bog down in the slow gears of bureaucracy.
While Obama swiftly moved to appoint a liaison to administer the Middle East peace process, which was highlighted by pressuring Israel to shut down home construction in the settlements, Trump is also moving fast—in the opposite direction.
Adapting to Reality
Many people have been concerned by Trump’s praise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and for good reason. His Secretary of State appointment of Rex Tillerson, the former leader of Exxon-Mobile that received a friendship award from Putin, only reinforced those anxieties.
But the reality is that Russia can’t be shoved to the sideline anymore. Trump gets that, regardless of how warm Trump really is toward Moscow and what he’ll do when Russia acts contrary to American interests and values.
Russia is a linchpin in the Middle East as the patron superpower for Iran and Syria. It is Russia that provides Iran with key nuclear power technology and legitimate upgrades to their weapon systems. If Trump is serious about redoing the Iranian nuclear deal, he’ll need Russia’s help.
It is Russia that provides much needed military support to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime in that country’s civil war. If Trump wants to end that bloody atrocity and alleviate the global refugee and terrorism crisis stemming from it, he will need Russian influence over Assad.
Israel already gets this. They have been coordinating as necessary with Russia in Syria for months to avoid miscommunications that could turn deadly as Russian fighter jets patrol a nation immediately to Israel’s north. Israel has also welcomed Russia’s Arab influence in promoting an alternative peace process approach by Moscow, versus the tired rerun production being mismanaged by the French.
If Trump can really reset relations with Russia—a promise by Obama that quickly went nowhere—without compromising on values critical to the free world, that could be better for everyone. Israel included.
Netanyahu has said a new world is beginning with the ascendancy of President Trump. At the very least, it’s a new way of American dealing with the world, and for some dismissed by Obama’s administration, that’s a change that brings some real hope.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 22, 2017)