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Israel and Trump
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Israel and Trump

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

For a politician who spent as much time in the United States as has Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu his ignorance of how American politics works is sometimes staggering. His belief that he can change the rules by virtue of his own charming personality suggests intense egotistical arrogance. It is becoming clearer and clearer that one of Michael Flynn’s most egregious errors was to discuss the pending U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements with the Russians.  In all likelihood Netanyahu reached out to Jared Kushner after realizing that the Obama Administration during the presidential transition period intended not to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution which Israel opposed. It appears probable that Kushner in turn told Trump and/or Flynn that perhaps their contacts with Russians could be employed to persuade Russia to postpone the U.N. Security Council vote until the Trump Administration is in place. At such time it would veto the resolution.

Aside from the very clear interference by the incoming Trump team with the existing Obama Administration—which is within the province of the Mueller investigation–it is beyond comprehension that Netanyahu assumed he could make one a final end run behind the back of the Obama national security team. The pure arrogance of Netanyahu is amazing. For eight years, he had failed to develop a mutual understanding with the Obama Administration concerning Israel’s settlement policy.  Netanyahu had also been unable to persuade his domestic political base on the need to modify its policy on further settlements without aggravating the Obama Administration. Bibi now assumed he could persuade the Trump team–even before they took office–to interfere in U.S. foreign policy.

Netanyahu’s management of his relationship with the U.S. apparently continues to depend on Bibi seeking to match his charm and ego with that of the President. While Netanyahu met his political match with Obama—although the U.S.-Israel security relationship was never more solid–Bibi assumed he was on rock solid footing with the new Trump Administration. Signs now suggest that here as well, Netanyahu may have assumed much more from the Trump Administration than he had a right to expect.

There are recent reports that Russia has acquired flying rights and bases in Egypt despite the fact that Egypt receives $1.3 billion of U.S. foreign assistance every year.  Assuming these reports are correct, it ought to give Israel serious pause as to what effect Russia’s movement into Egypt is having on the Trump Administration’s policy interests in the Middle East. This news presents a second potential threat to Israel of Russia’s increasing support for Iran.

As Israel and Syria have indicated Iranian engagement in Syria is growing. There is an indication of Iranian base constructions as well as the presence of Iranian forces increasing outside of Damascus. This activity represents not only a potential danger to Israel but suggests a serious split between Israel and the U.S. as to the nature of the regional threat.

these actions need to be recognized in conjunction with very active support and courting by the Trump Administration of the new Saudi Crown Prince.  This appears to be based much more on the economic benefits of weapons sales and potentially additional development opportunities than on larger regional issues; except for the Iranian threat. The bottom line here appears to leave Israel very much on the sidelines, except for potentially the geopolitically meaningless gesture by the Trump Administration to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. 

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