US President Trump: “America First”…..What about Israel?

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

The policies announced by the new US President Donald Trump are different from those of his predecessors in that he intends to follow a policy that may lead to a new kind of isolation focusing on pure American interests. ‘America first’ in any mutual interests with other countries or when faced with threats, was one of his election campaign slogans. It is thus understood that no country would in fact enjoy a special relationship with the US.

          But Patrick Buchanan, a founding editor of the ‘American Conservative’, wrote saying, in his article “Israel First or America First”, that Trump had announced “America First” following his inauguration and now he has a new best friend in the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. By taking office, any pressures on Israel will end and the “settlement” constructions will continue, he said. Buchanan noted that “the two-state solution is almost surely dead. Netanyahu is not going to remove scores of thousands of Jewish “settlers”/ colonizers “to cede the land to a Palestinian state”. He asked “how will all this impact the new Trump administration?”  Trump, he wrote, is certain “to tilt U.S. policy heavily toward Israel”. Nevertheless, is this an inevitable destiny?

What if we declare ‘America First’ in the Middle East? Should we then conclude that it is in the interest of the United States to find a just, or at least a reasonable solution, to the Palestinian cause considering that the current Israeli policy harms the higher American interests as regards this issue? The question becomes valid, especially with Trump announcing that it is time to reconsider the US foreign policy including its policy towards the Middle East. The comments followed a statement by the White House announcing that “while we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

It is well-known that most world leaders were not enthusiastic towards Trump’s election as US president, except for a few, including Netanyahu and Jewish “settlers” who look to receive two gifts he had promised Israel; moving the American embassy to occupied Arab Palestinian Jerusalem as well as supporting and fattening the Jewish “settlements” in the occupied West Bank. Over the past few decades, Israel’s higher interests have caused the United States losses in the Middle East. The American military presence in the region led to counterproductive results and was targeted as a reaction which encouraged the emergence of an ongoing wave of resistance and terrorism by certain military and political groups all over the Middle East and the larger Moslem World. Indeed, many experts, both military and politicians, concluded that any political move to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict away from the proposed two-state solution would be futile, especially with the continued occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of Jewish “settlements” in the occupied Palestinian West Bank area including Arab Easter Jerusalem. President Trump has, early in his election campaign, revealed a strong bias to Israel, pledging first to move the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem and appointing David Friedman as the new ambassador to Tel Aviv. Friedman is known as one of Israel’s strongest supporters, mainly its internationally-condemned Jewish “settlement” policy. Moreover, Trump and his Jewish son-in-law businessman Jared Kushner are among donors to the American Friends of Beit El organization which supports building “settlement” on Palestinian land; a practice that antagonizes 1.5 billion Arabs and Moslems. Do such acts help ‘America First’ interests?

Israeli analyst Ariel Bolstein recently wrote that President Obama began his term in office with his ill-fated Cairo speech in which he tried to extend a hand to the Moslem Brotherhood Movement. He said President Trump now begins his term by meeting with the prime minister of Israel Netanyahu. What a big difference, he commented. Bolstein said “that setting a date for the meeting with Netanyahu (February 15) sends a symbolic message to Israel or its leader; Israel is an important ally of the American superpower. Trump, (Bolstein) went on to say, had promised that things will change dramatically and Israel will not have to be afraid of betrayal of its major friend (i.e. U.S.A.) especially in the United Nations bodies (Security Council and General Assembly and all U.N. Agencies). The time has come he said, to honour promises, and as seen in other issues, the new American president meets his promises perfectly well”; he at least trys! Yet, Buchanan was insightful in his previously-mentioned article by concluding that “having America publicly reassert herself as Israel’s best friend, with “no daylight” between us, could have us ending up as Israel’s only friend — and Israel as our only friend in the Middle East. Bibi’s (Netanyahu) Israel First policy must one day collide with America First”.

The United States spent decades providing economic, political, diplomatic and military support to Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation which had a deep negative impact on its image and interests. In this regard, the Israeli writer B Michael, in his article titled “Mr President, take the money you give Israel and run”, wrote: “Follow your own slogan (America First) and simply set yourself free of us … Stop funding us, maintaining us, pampering us! So extricate yourself from our swamp. Take the money and run … so we might finally come back to our senses”. Now, with the arguments being floated, will Trump, the businessman, ask Israel- specifically in the interest of ‘America First’- for a price worthy to be paid to the Palestinians and the Arabs in return for such an American generosity?


كاتب وباحث عربي، ومحلل سياسي مختص في القضايا الفلسطينية وشؤون الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي

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