From The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), 11 November 2016, by Ahron Shapiro:
... with the
election passed, the time has arrived to examine the stated policies of
president-elect Donald Trump, as well as take an introductory look at his
Middle East Israel advisors.
... Israel wasn't much of an issue in the US
elections. Both candidates kept it low-key (in the case of Hillary
Clinton, we know from emails revealed by Wikileaks that she received
advice to leave Israel out of her stump speeches and reserve the issue
exclusively for talks with donors).
For the most part,
Trump's views on Israel were parcelled out in a piecemeal fashion during
the campaign. However on November 2, his advisors on Israel, Jason
Greenblatt and David Friedman, issued a 16-point
policy statement that compiled his position based on all
of his previous discussions and speeches.
these positions have been discussed with Mr. Trump and the Trump
campaign," they wrote, "and most have been stated, in one form
or another, by Mr. Trump in various interviews or speeches given by him
or on his social media accounts."
comment on every point, this blog will focus on a few highlights.
Of particular note
is Trump's explicit opposition to UN Security Council interference in
Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, and certainly against any
attempts to impose a settlement between the parties. Trump also clearly
promises to push back against any anti-Israel measures at the UN or any
of its organs, going so far as to threaten to pull US funding from the UN
Human Rights Council.
very significantly, he introduces conditions for the creation of a
Palestinian state as part of any peace agreement.
Finally - contrary to the belief that Trump will "tear up" the
Iran nuclear deal, this statement says he will only
"counteract" Iranian violations to the deal and issue new
sanctions against Iran, if needed.
In regards to his
views on the Security Council, Trump's unequivocal statement could act as
a deterrent for outgoing President Barack Obama to consider backing or
abstaining from a long-rumoured French resolution that would effectively
supersede the politically land-for-peace Resolution 242 by making the
creation of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 lines an objective
endorsed by the Security Council.
Widely believed to
have been delayed to avoid impacting the US elections, this resolution
now would seem to be in jeopardy, as its success would require Obama to
act in open defiance of the incoming president's wishes, against all
tradition and protocol. That, of course, doesn't mean it's impossible,
On the other hand,
some very respected analysts, including Cifford May and Jonathan
Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of
Democracies, have come to the opposite conclusion - that Trump's victory
may very well increase the chances of such a resolution, with Obama's
support or acquiescence.
policies vis-à-vis the peace process break new ground as a US president
is signalling to the Palestinians that US support for statehood will be
withheld unless Palestinians abandon violence and incitement, and permit
Jews to live in their territory. Further, in what appears to be a first
for a US President is Trump's acknowledgement that the divided
Palestinian leadership, as evidenced by Hamas control of Gaza, is itself
a show-stopping obstacle to peace.
While it is not
spelled out explicitly, the implication of Trump's policy statement is
tantamount to an endorsement of the separately voiced views of Israeli
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog that
peace progress with the Palestinians, at present, is impossible because
Israel lacks a Palestinian partner to negotiate with, that is both
willing and able to deliver a secure peace.
When it comes to
Palestinian independence, Trump puts the onus on the Palestinians to
negotiate directly with Israel and prepare their society for peace, while
his views on the borders of a future Palestinian state place the needs of
Israel's security over Palestinian territorial aspirations.
It should be added
that Trump, like several other US presidential hopefuls over the years,
has promised to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US
embassy to Jerusalem. However, previous presidents who have made that
promise as candidates have found reasons to avoid doing so once in
office, and it remains to be seen whether Trump will act differently than
As stated before, Trump's statement on Israel policy takes a tough line
on Iran in stark contrast to the Obama Administration. However, while he
briefly mentions that Iran backs the Syrian Assad regime (and this is
presented as a bad thing), he conspicuously avoids discussing his overall
policy towards Syria.
And here is where
things get sketchy for Israel. Trump has repeatedly said during his
campaign that his goal in the Syrian conflict is to stop ISIS rather than
"Assad is secondary, to me, to
ISIS," Trump said, using another term for Islamic State.
He also suggested that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's strategy for
the region would lead "to World War III," because of the
potential for military conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia, which is
backing the Assad regime.
"What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on
Syria," said Trump over fried eggs and sausage at his Trump National
Doral golf resort. "You're going to end up in World War III over
Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton."
Russia backs its
client Assad and Trump apparently doesn't want to risk confrontation with
Russia over Syria. However, as Trump himself admits, Iran backs Assad as
well and benefits from a land bridge through Syria for Hezbollah to
southern Lebanon and the Mediterranean.
analysts, including BESA Center Director Efraim Inbar (who was just
speaking on this very topic, among others, in Australia) maintain that
the Syrian-Iranian Axis represents a significantly bigger strategic
threat to Israel than ISIS.
Beyond his Israel
policy, Trump has been labelled inside his
party and out
as an isolationist, looking to downgrade American involvement abroad,
economically and militarily.
It's too early to
tell whether standing up to Iran will be an exception for Trump, though
again, his minimal, weak Syrian policy hints at a somewhat contradictory
stance at this point.
Trump's Israel Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Jason Greenblatt and
David Friedman. Both are real estate lawyers who have worked closely with
Trump for many years and have risen to top levels of his
While he has not taken a prominent role thus far, Trump's son-in-law
Jared Kushner co-wrote Trump's well-received speech to AIPAC earlier this
year and should be included among Trump's trusted advisors on Israel.
Greenblatt, 49, is the chief legal officer at the Trump Organisation and
an executive vice president. A yarmulke-wearing orthodox Jew, Greenblatt
is a graduate of Yeshiva University.
In August, he was
interviewed by Katie Glueck from the website Politico in
a fairly hostile piece which questioned how a real estate lawyer with no
foreign policy experience should be put in an advisory position for a
In his defence,
Greenblatt suggested that perhaps a fresh approach wouldn't be a bad
"There are lots of experts, over
decades, who have lived in the policy world, have lived in the world of
diplomacy and government," Greenblatt said, speaking in a gold-hued
conference room on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan and waving
off questions about his inexperience. "Not to diminish their role,
but are we any closer to achieving the peace process? Are we any closer
to achieving peace?"
this attitude annoyed the people who have trained their whole lives to be
"To me it's almost degrading to
say, just because you're Jewish, you know this," said Lisa Spies,
who ran Jewish outreach for Mitt Romney in 2012 and works extensively
with pro-Israel donors. "This is degrading to people who actually do
Friedman, 58, who tells reporters he has acted as Trump's attorney many
times. He works at the New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres &
Friedman LLP and counts former U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate, Senator
Joe Lieberman among his work colleagues at the firm.
Friedman owns an
apartment in Jerusalem and is rumoured to be a top contender to be the
next US ambassador to Israel.
His position is not a one-state
solution. His position is that he's observed the obvious, which is that a
two-state solution over the past generation has been attempted over and
over again and has been a failure. The definition of insanity is to do
the same thing over and over again expecting a different result - and
he's not insane. To blindly embrace a two-state solution because it's
been an American policy for the past 25-years is not something he's going
to do, any more so than one would have expected a president in the 1970s
embrace the Vietnam war because it was a 20-year policy of the United
States. Policies are only good if they work.
During the last
months of the Trump presidential campaign, Friedman wrote four op-eds for
Post defending Trump on Israel and Jewish issues.
They can be accessed here.
for Secretary of State under Donald Trump
As widely known, for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this blog,
a significant fraction of Republican lawmakers and strategists either
refused to accept Trump as their candidate or distanced themselves from
him at some point during his campaign.
In perhaps the most telling example, a month before the election - amidst
the backdrop of embarrassing recordings of Trump saying lewd remarks
about women - House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would no longer campaign
For this reason, in choosing the all-important cabinet position of
Secretary of State, Trump will likely limit his choices to those eligible
candidates who were most loyal to Trump during his campaign.
Pundits have thus far focused their attention on three individuals:
Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Former House
Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While much could be said about the world view and professional resumes of
these candidates, of particular interest to AIJAC readers is the fact
that Bolton and Corker have been outspoken in their criticism of the Iran
nuclear deal, while Newt Gingrich is known for his hawkish views on
Rafael Medoff of the Jewish News Service has just published a profile of
these candidates from the perspective of Israel which can be accessed here.
prominent Jewish voices close to Trump
In July, journalist Armin Rosen, writing for the Web site Tablet, published a
series of short profiles of prominent Jews associated
Besides Friedman, Greenblatt and Kushner, Rosen included short profiles
of Trump's Jewish family including his daughter (Kushner's wife and
Jewish convert) Ivanka, and Trump's father-in-law (and campaign donor)
Within his corporate inner circle, Rosen profiled his special counsel,
executive vice president Michael Cohen (a Democrat, it should be noted).
Finally, rounding out the review were Jews who helped Trump finance his
campaign, including Trump's national fundraising chairman Steven Mnuchin,
and Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
- A campaign controversy: Antisemitism among Trump supporters
While Israel wasn't a major issue in the campaign, Hillary Clinton
supporters strongly criticised the Trump campaign for not doing enough to
distance itself from endorsements by neo-Nazis and other extreme-right
elements. At times, this criticism extended to promotional
materials produced by the Trump campaign itself.
advisors vehemently rejected the accusations.
in the U.S. is on the left, not on the right," Friedman told the JTA
in a story published on October 25. "I'm not saying that
there aren't neo-Nazis floating around in the United States, because I'm
sure there are. But the movement we ought to be concerned about is on the