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Analysis: What can we in the Middle East expect from a Donald Trump presidency?After the divisive 2016 elections have finally come to an end, Rachel Avraham explains what she believes American President-Elect Donald Trump’s Middle East policy will be over the next four years. How will these election results affect the State of Israel and the Middle East region?
The divisive 2016 elections included much heated rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum. In the background of these developments, there was a surge in anti-Semitism in the United States. Both the fringe right wing and fringe left wing elements that hold views hostile to the Jewish people were emboldened during the presidential race. Many Jews threatened that they would make Aliyah if the candidate that they opposed won. Many non-Jews declared that they would move to Canada following these elections if they did not get the results that they wanted. Already, the Canadian Immigration website crashed on Election Night.
These elections were so divisive that families were torn apart. Some relatives threatened to disconnect from family members who supported the wrong candidate while numerous individuals threatened to defriend people on Facebook over their political stance on the US elections. This was perhaps the dirtiest battle for the White House in American history and the most divisive since the American Civil War. But it is now all over. Donald Trump is now the American President. The question arises, what can we expect over the next four years from a Donald Trump presidency?
In Israel, many are hoping that Donald Trump will leave the divisive rhetoric of his campaign that led to a surge in anti-Semitic rhetoric and the emboldening of White Supremacist groups behind him and govern more from the center. Already, there is an indication that Trump seeks to do just that. Trump has already promised that he will be the President of “all Americans” and stated that he seeks to “reach out to people” that didn’t support him in order to unify the country. How will these election results affect the State of Israel?
If Trump lives up to his campaign promises, which he already pledged that he would do, and does not flip flop on this issue, Israeli-American relations are expected to drastically improve. The coldness that existed between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government will become a thing of the past for Trump has promised Jewish voters that he will be Israel’s best friend, thus undoing an earlier declaration that he wants to remain neutral on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Nevertheless, only time will tell if this will affect the aid package that Israel received from the Obama administration. According to Trump’s latest pledges, this aid will be improved upon, although this is not guaranteed for he earlier on in the campaign said he was against funding foreign countries including Israel and thought that other countries should pay for American assistance. It remains to be seen whether he goes by his latest pledges or his earlier statements on the foreign assistance to Israel. However, it is important to note that all of Trump’s Middle East advisers and America’s new Vice President Mike Pence are solidly pro-Israel. This indicates which direction Trump will take and it will most likely be the pro-Israel stance.
Will Trump move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or will it just be campaign talk that doesn’t actually happen? No one knows at this point but for sure, Israel will be able to build in Judea and Samaria without constant condemnations from the executive branch of the US government. This is a theme that Trump remained committed to throughout his campaign. Trump is also unlikely to place any pressure upon Israel to conform to American dictates like Obama did and will likely veto any UN resolutions that place pressure upon Israel during the next operation to root out Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, Judea and Samaria or East Jerusalem as well as any other anti-Israel resolutions that appear at the UN. Whether or not the Palestinian refugees end up settling in Puerto Rico as Trump proposed remains to be seen but the idea of a Palestinian state existing in Judea and Samaria with East Jerusalem as its capital city is now a thing of the past with Trump as US President.
In addition, America’s relationship with Russia is expected to dramatically improve as Trump deeply admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will affect America’s stance on the Crimea and the Syrian crisis. America’s support for Russia will likely embolden Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, weaken numerous Syrian rebel groups, many of which are Islamist and others which are moderate, and embolden Middle Eastern dictatorships across the region. However, at the same time, Trump does support the establishment of a safe-zone in Syria and this could greatly help deal with the humanitarian crisis within the country provided it is not run by the allies of the Assad regime.
Nevertheless, the initiative to make it easier for victims’ raped in war zones to get access to abortions is now up in the air thanks to the election of Donald Trump. According to the New York Times, the Helms Amendment prevents funding for abortions abroad even for victims who became pregnant as a result of rape in conflicts like the Syrian Civil War. The lack of access to safe abortions has led many women who became pregnant after getting raped by ISIS to taking drastic measures to end their pregnancies, such as abandoning the newborns, paying men to stomp on them until they bleed or even committing suicide. Allowing rape victims from Syria to access abortions is pivotal for these women being able to rebuild their lives but no Trump-Pence presidency will provide them with that.
On the positive side, Trump is likely to take a tougher stance against radical Islamist groups like ISIS than Clinton would as he is willing to commit to more ground troops than she would have and utilizes much stronger language against them. His rash anti-Islamist talk if backed up by action has the potential to subdue ISIS more than carefully worded declarations made by intellectuals but at the same time, it is also more likely to alienate moderate Muslims who otherwise would support the West. On the other side of the coin, despite Trump’s harsh anti-ISIS rhetoric, it remains a question mark how successful his anti-ISIS strategy will be if it includes emboldening Russia. On the Kurdish front, it remains to be seen whether Trump will be good for them or not. Trump claims that he likes the Kurds and believes that they have been “terribly mistreated” but a policy emboldening Russia and Assad is not especially pro-Kurdish. Furthermore, his prior statements about Saddam Hussein offended many Kurds and more recently, Trump recently embarrassed himself when he confused the Kurds with the Iranian Al Quds Force.
However, despite Trump’s strong support for Russia, he decided now that undoing the Iranian nuclear deal is his “first priority” after previously stating that he had to respect and stringently enforce the agreement so long as the Iranians lived up to their end of the bargain for it was a done deal even though he disagreed with it: “I have been in business a long time. This deal is catastrophic for Israel, for America and for the whole of the Middle East. We have rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion and we received absolutely nothing in return.” How this will affect America’s relationship with Russia remains to be seen. Nevertheless, undoing the Iran deal is a positive development that will affect the entire Middle East region as it will begin to bring to a halt the Iranian axis that has been on the ascent recently in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, committing numerous crimes against humanity as we speak.
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