Israel has joined in the scramble to guesstimate President-elect Donald Trump’s forthcoming agenda, specifically his plans for the Middle East, after his surprise win that followed a campaign of conflicting foreign policy visions, according to a leaked document produced by Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Ministry officials sent “The Trump Administration — Preliminary Comments” to Israeli diplomats across the globe, Haaretz reported yesterday after obtaining a copy.
The text reveals Israel expects the Trump administration to have a hands-off approach, with the exception of Syria, although cautions on his reliability. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which the Obama administration pursued in 2013-14, will likely not recur under President Trump, said the document.
The Trump administration will have a “minimal interest in foreign affairs,” and Trump personally “doesn’t see the Middle East as a good investment and it’s reasonable to assume he will seek to reduce American involvement in the region.”
“The diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians will not be a top priority for the Trump administration and it’s reasonable to assume this topic will also be influenced by the staff surrounding him and developments in the field,” the memo said.
Still, Israel is dubious about Trump’s campaign promises to support Israel, citing the president-elect short-lived stance of remaining “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Trump’s declarations do not necessarily point to a coherent policy on this issue. On the one hand he has expressed support for the settlements and for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but in other statements he said that he wants to remain neutral and that the two sides should reach a deal themselves…”
“It’s too early to determine how Trump will choose to act toward the Republican establishment after many of its senior officials alienated themselves from him … but his lack of political experience may force him to cooperate with them.”
Additional clues on Trump’s goals for Israel and the Palestinians were absent from his first interview with Israeli press since becoming president-elect. Trump spoke to Israel HaYom, the newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul and Trump financial supporter. He did not clarify how involved he will be with Israel, although noted he “can play a significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace.” He stopped short of indicating whether or not he would sponsor another round of negotiations, stating talks “must be negotiated between the parties themselves, and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less,” a signal that he will block Palestinian efforts to seek support from the United Nations Security Council to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In Jerusalem, officials in the municipal government approved 7,000 new settlement units in the West Bank, explaining to the Israel Radio that the Trump victory was thought to prevent backlash from higher-ups who have oversight over new construction.
The pre-Trump era was one of constant scrutiny. “We kept getting calls,” said Meir Turgeman who heads Jerusalem’s planning and construction committee. “The director general of the Prime Minister’s Office would always call the mayor and say don’t discuss these now, don’t authorize, it’s a sensitive time,” reported the Times of Israel.