Arthur Koll

The Trump Administration: 3 Observations and a Question

A dream has come true for Prime Minister Netanyahu, the emergence of a Republican President, backed by a Republican senate and house. There will be need neither for maneuvering back and forth between the White House and Capitol Hill, nor, at times, working with Congress against the preference of the president. For many years, Congress has been the backbone of bi-partisan support for Israel. Now there is a president-elect that has promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and uses unequivocally strong words when talking about radical Islam.

Despite all of the above, my suggestion to those who believe that Trump will swiftly move the Embassy to Jerusalem, or that the US will abandon its long-standing support for a two-state solution, is to hold their horses. Many presidential candidates have in the past promised to move the embassy, yet the US has not yet recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the embassy has not moved an inch from its derelict building in Tel Aviv, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party, was quick to suggest that Trump’s victory will result in an end to all diplomatic talk of a two-state solution, and called for erasing this vision from the political agenda. His position represents not only the position of the national-religious party that he leads, but also a significant segment of the ruling Likud Party.

Bennett’s statement was a quick reaction to the election results, and a smart political move. If Netanyahu echos Bennett’s call for this major policy shift, he would be playing second fiddle to his Education Minister’s initiative. If the prime minister does not reiterate Bennett’s stance, then the Jewish Home party leader will be on his way to retrieving at least some of the voters he lost to Netanyahu during the last elections.

Will Bennett’s statement have any impact on the Trump administration and its Middle East policies? That is highly doubtful. Will it help anti-Israeli propaganda that claims Israel has no intention to reach a compromise solution to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians? The answer, unfortunately, is most likely yes.

The reality is that more than a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cold War has returned, and is again alive and kicking. It manifests itself in rhetoric by Russian and American officials, and in arenas around the globe, such as the Ukraine, the Baltic, Syria, the Balkans and other areas. A key question going forward is whether the Trump victory will help ease tensions between the US-led NATO and Putin’s Russia. When it comes to tone and language, a Trump administration will try to deescalate tensions with Moscow, but goodwill is not enough to diffuse the new Cold War. Putin is acting with determination around the world, and employs brinksmanship to position Russia as a renewed super power, with global interests and influence. Trump, for his part, at the height of his campaign, promised time and again to “make America strong again” and invest more in the military.

The ability of the two leaders to work out differences and decrease tensions without yielding to the other will have a significant impact on the Middle East and Israel.

As tremors of the Trump victory earthquake continue to reverberate, an unavoidable question is whether there is any chance that people will ever trust pollsters again. Is this a profession or a gamble? In the last few Israeli parliamentary elections, including the recent one in 2015, Israeli pollsters experienced a similar collapse of their forecasts. We have seen pollsters “eating their hats” time and again in other places too. The result of the Brexit national referendum in Britain came as a major surprise. Then came the Trump victory that nobody predicted, including Trump’s own pollsters.

To the people who make their living from the polling business I say: don’t worry. The politicians remain addicted to polls, as do the media and the public. The only difference in future elections will be that, in addition to traditional polls, there will be many more predictions based on the new “sophisticated” technique of measuring trends in social media.

One question that will remain unresolved is: How can pollsters identify those who lie to them?

Edited By Yaakov Lappin

Co-Edited By Benjamin Anthony

Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF, the Foreign Ministry or the organization Our Soldiers Speak. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.

About the Author
Ambassador Arthur Koll is the former Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He concluded his service as the head of the Media and Public Affairs Division. He is a former Ambassador of Israel to the Republic of Serbia and to Montenegro and served as instructor of the National Defense College. Mr. Koll also served as Consul of the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta, USA. Ambassador Koll is a Senior Diplomatic Advisor to The MirYam Institute. Follow their work at Www.MirYamInstitute.Org
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