Friday, February 03, 2017

As Predicted…

Jordan's King Abdullah and President Trump
As predicted by yours truly, Trump has changed some of his positions based on what his advisers and some world leaders have been telling him. The latest being his views on Israeli settlements. After speaking with Jordan’s King Abdullah, he warned Israel that constructing new settlements "may not be helpful" to Middle East peace efforts. He said that Israel should stop the kind of settlement construction that expands the borders of their existing ones.

This is almost verbatim what I thought he would do. He does not say that Israel should stop all settlement construction. He only suggests curbing it and not to expand the borders. That means that if someone needs to add a bedroom to an existing house in Ma’ale Adumim, he should be allowed to do so.

This is quite a departure from past administrations that condemned any and all settlement construction activity referring to it as an obstacle to peace. He did not use the word obstacle or impediment. I had always believed that this was the fairest way to proceed in Israel. It is fair to long time residents in cities that are just beyond the so-called ‘green line’ and it cannot be claimed by Palestinians that Israel is in the process of a ‘land grab’ as they often say. I hope Israel takes a cue from this and follows suit.

It is interesting to note that he made these comments right after speaking with Jordan’s Abdullah. Apparently Abdullah realizes that there is a new sheriff in town whose advisers on Israel have views that mimic the settler movement. He’s probably happy to have moved Trump away from those views a bit. I don’t hear him complaining about this new policy of implied support for some construction. At least not yet. It remains to be seen how the PA will react to this.

While Trump has some very strong settler supporters on board he also realizes that one cannot so drastically change foreign policy.

The same thing happened in the UN yesterday. Although committed to improving relationships with Russia, UN Representative Nikky Haley condemned them for their aggression in the Ukraine.  The sanctions will not be removed. Shades of the Obama administration. That was exactly their foreign policy stance with Russia.

It is also clear that Trump will not dismantle the deal Obama made with Iran. What is clear however is that he will be a lot tougher with them than Obama was. Trump will probably never allow a red line to be crossed - and do nothing. Iran’s recent attack on a Yemenite ship  believing it to be an American ship… and their recent testing of a ballistic missile has generated a warning from the Trump administration that Iran is being put on notice. And that the US will retaliate.

That generated the typical response from Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameni, which basically said the US better not mess with Iran, or else! I don’t think the new administration is going to be rattled by a third rate (not yet nuclear) military power’s threat in the face of America’s potential military might. (Which Trump said is not off the table –in response to a question about the kind of retaliation the US is thinking about.)

There is also the fact that though he has a desire to use torture against enemy combatants to gain vital information that would help protect our citizens here and abroad, he has nevertheless deferred to his Secretary of Defense that told him not to do it. And he won’t.

I knew the man was not as impulsive as he seemed to be during the campaign and during the transition period.  With the exception of the temporary ban on refugees from the 7 predominately Muslim countries known to in some way be connected to terrorists - he is not as impulsive with respect to setting foreign policy as he is with his daily rhetoric on Twitter. What remains then is a conservative and tougher foreign policy stance than that of his predecessor that is being guided by people with conservative values who have the experience to guide him in those areas.

Unfortunately his penchant for impulsive  tweets that tend to inflame passions from his political left; some on the right; and world leaders both friendly to us and not - will likely continue. But at least his bark is a lot worse than his bite. And I think world leaders like Australia’s Malcom Turnbull who as one of our closest allies was nevertheless scolded by Trump yesterday - are beginning to realize that.

(I hope this will be the last word on Trump for a while. So that I can get back to what I intended blog to all be about. But I wouldn’t bet the farm on it just yet.)