How pro-Israel is Donald Trump?

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is http://tuviainil.blogspot.com He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

New US President Donald Trump has been in office less than a month. He’s barely gotten started. Yet, we’ve already seen changes in how the US treats Israel.

The change is obvious. For example, when Israel passed its “Regulation Law” on February 6, 2017 to legitimize small Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria, Trump refused to condemn the law. The only comment he made was that ‘West Bank settlement building’ “may not be helpful” to achieving peace (“New Israeli law legalizing settlements draws harsh reaction worldwide”, jweekly, February 9, 2017). Such a muted response from Trump seemed a far cry from Obama’s more strident ‘settlements’ reaction just 28/29 days earlier: “Obama says Israeli settlements making two-state solution impossible” (reuters, January 11, 2017).

Israelis noticed this difference. After the Regulation Law passed, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), a major advocate of the legislation, thanked the American people for electing Trump (“Israeli lawmakers pass controversial Regulation Bill to legalize West Bank outposts”, i24news.tv, February 6, 2017). Smotrich declared that, without the Trump election, the law might not have passed (“Israeli lawmakers pass controversial Regulation Bill to legalize West Bank outposts”, i24news.tv, February 6, 2017). Many in Israel saw Trump as a true friend in the White House.

Soon after this report of Trump-and-the-settlements, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley declared that the US was blocking a UN decision to appoint a PLO official as a UN envoy (“US blocks appointment of former Palestinian PM as UN Libya envoy”, dailymail, February 11, 2017). The PLO wasn’t happy. The UN wasn’t happy. But Amb Halley was firm: she said, "For too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel…Going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies" (ibid).

This statement seemed to put the US squarely in Israel’s corner. For Israelis, that was a change.

The same day Amb Haley  stood firmly for Israel (February 10th), the UN made a new decision regarding Israel. It had been preparing a report for an upcoming February 27th meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC). That report was to contain a database of companies who do business in Judea-Samaria, the Golan and East Jerusalem. That database was being developed to create a blacklist for, essentially, a boycott-Israel purpose. That blacklist would effectively target all of Israel because most companies that do business in Judea-Samaria, etc. also do business throughout the rest of Israel.

This UN decision was simple: it was delaying the release of the blacklist. It said it needed more time to figure out how to build its blacklist database (Stephanie Nebehay, “Exclusive: U.N. set to defer report on companies with Israeli settlement ties”, reuters, February 10, 2017). The report suggested another reason for delay: pressure from states (like the US) which didn’t support the creation of a blacklist in the first place (ibid).  

Interestingly, when the UN announced the delay, it didn’t give a future publication date. This seemed a win for Israel. Was this delay linked to Trump’s pro-Israel stance? Some thought, yes (ibid).

That same weekend (February 11-12), the UN floated a rumour: Israel’s Tzipi Livni will be offered the post of UN Under-Secretary General (Nitzan Keidar, “Will Tzipi Livni be appointed UN Under-Secretary General?”, arutzsheva, February 12, 2017). If true, it would be a first for the Jewish state.

Such an honor has never been offered to Israel. It’s considered inconceivable that Obama would have supported it. Trump’s UN muscle-flexing appeared to be creating ripples at the UN.  

So far, the only negative in all this pro-Israel news is Trump’s apparent ‘walk-back’ of his pre-election call to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But even if such reports are true, does that walk-back signal a retreat from Israel?

For the moment, that seems unlikely. If Trump were retreating from Israel, his UN ambassador wouldn’t have blocked a UN attempt to elevate a PLO anti-Jew. The UN wouldn’t suddenly delay a BDS-friendly anti-Israel blacklist. And no one at the UN would be suggesting an Israeli Jew be appointed to a high UN position for the first time in UN history.

Today, Trump stands strong for Israel. Does this mean the future looks bright for Israel?

No, it doesn’t. Trump is not a politician. He’s not a diplomat. He’s a deal-maker—and he’s aggressive. When he gives something, he expects something in return.

Trump protects Israel. Will he now expect something in return from Israel?

On February 15, 2017, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the US to meet with Trump. Perhaps this meeting with show us what Trump has in mind for Israel.  

Stay tuned.