Trump’s Dealing with North Korea Should Worry Israel

Trump’s Dealing with North Korea Should Worry Israel

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

President Trump turned the news focus totally around yesterday. He effectively took the attention away from the Stormy Daniels expose and throwing down the gauntlet for a forthcoming trade war, to his dramatic acceptance of an offer to meet with the North Koreans.   Whatever will eventually emerge from any discussions between Trump and Kim Jong-un, one thing is very clear already, the President grabbed the opportunity to make news, be dramatic, change the focus, and project himself on to the global front page. Donald Trump was ecstatic to show the world that he can make deals where no one else ever did.

The fact that he has few if any serious advisors on Korea/Japan/China does not disturb the President. Making decisions and shooting from the hip was an effective style apparently in the world of real estate. He does not care to comprehend that global diplomacy demands a much higher skill set. Believing that he can make decisions by himself on matters as serious as this is absurd. Dealing with North Korea is not like picking an “apprentice” or selecting Miss Universe contestants.

The questions are enormous and the unknowns ominous. The fact that North Korea stepped forward is extremely positive, but no one appears to comprehend what was their motivation. The potential dangers and traps are ever present.

For Trump it is about the Presidents holding a meeting so that Trump can demonstrate that he is a deal-maker even with North Korea. There is no sense as to what will be the preliminaries for the meeting and who will arrange them? Where would a meeting be held? Why acquiesce to a summit meeting when there have been no indications that a constructive result will be forthcoming?

Ambassador George Ball in the 1960’s and 70’s was unalterably opposed to summit meetings, because he suggested they do not work. They only can succeed if all parties are aware of what the results will be. Ball opposed summit meetings because Heads of State do not really do the negotiating. They get the credit and sign the papers. They give the instructions and advise the negotiators but they never do any of the bargaining at a summit meeting.  All that is clear here is that Kim Jung-un wants to sit down with Trump and the President assumes he can make a deal where others failed.

Given the immediate response by the President yesterday to an overture from North Korea this was a process which Israel ought to study with great trepidation. As far as could be ascertained, North Korea’s proposal was never staffed, checked, processed, or truly analyzed in detail by the State Department, the Defense Department, or the NSC; except perhaps in a very perfunctory manner.  There appears to be no evidence that the U.S. actually consulted with Japan, or even with South Korea, to say nothing of the rest of America’s allies. There is no suggestion that Trump discussed it with the Russians or the Chinese; except of course if they—especially the Russians–were behind the deal.

This decision reaffirms the notion that the President wants to make deals whenever and wherever he can and to prove that he can succeed where no one else ever did. If the Palestinians were to suddenly step forward with any type of negotiating proposal and not remain intransigent, Israel ought to recognize that President Trump would immediately grab the opportunity to try to arrange a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. If Trump were to receive a proposal for a one-state solution, or a second Jerusalem capital, or border adjustments, or refugees, or the right of return, there is no reason to assume that the President would not move to pressure Israel to move forward with a deal. Any notion that Trump wants a deal only if Israel agrees contradicts Trump’s entire modus operandi.  Trump wants a deal and is prepared to demand compliance.

For Israel, Trump will have their back until he has a chance to make a deal. This ought to be the takeaway for Israel from the North Korean gambit.

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