The first hundred days of any US administration are decisive. In the first few months of a term, a president can make changes and set a new course before anyone has a chance to voice an objection. In this respect, US President Donald Trump has acted transparently and openly. His inauguration speech and his initial decisions are a harbinger of what the rest of his presidency will be like. With Trump, however, we must keep in mind that everything could change at the drop of a hat.
For example, after attacking and slandering the Central Intelligence Agency, and claiming that its findings that the Russians intervened in US elections were false, he hightailed it down to Langley, Virginia, on his first day as president to pat the agency on the back.
This is Trump’s modus operandi. In his inauguration speech, Trump did not mince words. He said, “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.” The whole world noticed that he repeated those last two words. This is Trump, who came out of nowhere and conquered America.
As a man whose world is shaped by the business world, Trump is always zooming in on the bottom line (i.e. net profit), and therefore economic goals are his top priority. He wants to reinvigorate the US economy, and is heartbroken to see the “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.”
He’s promised the American people time and again that “we will bring back our jobs.” Trump measures the strength of his country first and foremost by its economic power, which in return will give America other strengths.
According to Trump, the US’s involvement in international affairs has hurt US commerce and infrastructure, has emptied the country’s coffers, and has weakened society. His first big decision was to sign an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key component of Barack Obama’s legacy. He displayed both consistency and rigidity in this action.
Incidentally, he never once mentioned his predecessor or his campaign rivals in his speech. It’s generally accepted in US inauguration speeches to commend one’s opponent, since he no longer poses a threat.
Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both did so in their inaugural addresses.
But Trump is not one to follow protocol, to behave in a politically correct manner.
Whether this was intentional or not does not matter.
Trump’s worldview is 180˚ different from Obama’s. Trump values economic and military power over diplomacy and negotiations, and is less concerned with promoting values such as democracy, freedom and social justice.
Whereas Obama supported taking moderate steps to isolate terrorists, and was wary of confronting Muslim countries, Trump has made it clear that he will fight to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism. It’s possible that we are soon going to experience the outbreak of a Clash of Civilizations, just as Samuel Huntington predicted.
Israel must study Trump’s speech in depth, and dissect each and every one of the new president’s actions. If Trump is worrying about America first, then maybe we should be concerned the US might not support its ally Israel in a time of need. Will the US provide us with urgent military supplies in a time of war as it has in the past? Will it use its strength to deter other world powers, such as Russia, if the need arises? Or will Trump instead examine how each scenario would affect US interests and how much it will cost? We are in luck, though, because we have a test case scenario already in play from which we can learn the answers to these questions. Thank goodness Obama signed a large military aid pact with Israel this past September – there is no doubt that Trump would never have agreed to a larger amount.
These funds indirectly strengthen the Israeli defense exports industry at the expense of US defense exports, which of course Trump would like to bolster. Since Trump is promoting American first, he would probably prefer that these funds be used back home to strengthen the US market.
The US market is one of Israel’s largest export destinations, and the question of whether or not Trump will be willing to fight and pass legislation against BDS remains to be seen. Will the US continue to allow relaxed trade restrictions on Israeli imports to the US? Will a Trump-led administration continue to provide tax deductions for charitable giving, including funds going to Israeli organizations? Hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions flow into Israel every year and we can no longer assume that this will last in perpetuity.
Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to go to Washington in February, and will be one of the first world leaders to meet with Trump.
The phone conversation that took place on Sunday between the two leaders was “very nice,” according to Netanyahu’s office.
Trump is displaying goodwill by bringing up the possibility of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The Israeli government is hurriedly taking advantage of the lull while the US administration finds its footing to push through construction plans in Jerusalem (yeah!) and in the territories (oy vey!).
If Netanyahu’s plan was to challenge Trump from the get-go by implementing controversial projects that could lead to a flare-up of violence in the West Bank, then this was a grave mistake.
We need to give Washington time to find its footing – nobody likes to make decisions and manage international crises at the onset of a presidential term. Why do we need to put Trump to the test so quickly? The first couple, Melania and Donald Trump, made their debut appearance at the inaugural ball where they danced a waltz.
I believe, however, that the Yemenite step – one step forward, two steps back – would have been a more befitting beginning for the new American administration.
The author is an MK from the Zionist Union party, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and head of its Lobby for US-Israel Relations.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.