This is how Trump got the Canadians and the Mexicans to sign a new free trade agreement. This is how he brought the Chinese to the negotiating table to restructure the trade policy with them. This is how he managed to arrange two summits with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. This is how he was able to promise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria. And, this is how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received full American support during the affair surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist, and critic of the Saudi government, who was brutally killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
The most obvious example of Trump’s polarizing ways is the U.S. relations with Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has Trump’s VIP club membership (thanks to his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, as well as cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal). The Palestinian Authority, however (along with Iran), decided to sit out this storm until 2020, when they hope Trump will be replaced by a Democratic Party candidate.
The Palestinians – the spoiled child – were embraced by the international community in recent years, but overnight found themselves in a completely different political reality. The Palestinians ignored the power Trump has and gave up an opportunity to exploit his strong desire to make his long-delayed Mideast peace plan a success, solely to gain some political and economic leverage.
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After Jerusalem was recognized as Israel’s capital, the Palestinians humiliated U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel, boycotted Jared Kushner’s peace team, continued to make monthly payments to terrorists’ families and, perhaps worst of all, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas publicly insulted Trump.
This prompted the White House to examine whether supporting the Palestinian Authority served American interests. As a result, the Trump administration imposed a series of painful measures: stopping all U.S. aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza; eliminating U.S. funding for UNRWA, closing the PLO offices in Washington D.C., and essentially conducted a flanking maneuver against Abbas when it comes to relations with the moderate Arab states. All of this before the so-called “deal of the century” has even been revealed.
However, this era of gift-giving to Israel could end in disaster, as the Palestinians look more and more miserable in the eyes of the world, dividing Americans on the issue. In today’s America, those Democrats who associate with the Trump administration pay a heavy political price, while those joining the resistance get a hefty dividend.
Already, there are clear indications the wheel has started to turn: a lack of vocal support for Israel from the Democratic presidential candidates during the latest deadly flare-up on the Gaza border; the fact that six out of seven Democratic senators voted against the law allowing states to legislate against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; and above all, the political and public atmosphere that enables U.S. lawmakers like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to make anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic statements. The fact that these women’s political careers continue to thrive despite the vigorous activity of the Jewish organizations is a conspicuous warning sign.
The Trump rule gave Israel an unprecedented advantage over the Palestinians. In order to prevent the tables from turning in the foreseeable future, Israel must deal with the damage its close ties to Trump has done to its relations with the Democrats.
If we don’t get our act together, we too will find ourselves trying to survive the reign of a U.S. president, except in our case he or she will be a Democrat who would undeniably want to erase the legacy of the Trump administration. We would find ourselves facing an American public that emphasizes with the Palestinians, who were badly bruised by the Trump era.
Lior Weintraub is Vice President of The Israel Project and the former chief of staff at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.