What does Donald’s triumph mean for Israel’s future?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never worked with a Republican president, so the future partnership with President-elect Donald Trump is unique. Hillary Clinton would have been professional and critical, but a known quantity. Trump will be dramatic and friendly, but very unpredictable – he will move fast and break things.

The Republicans control Congress so Trump has the power, but does he have the inclination? He has questioned alliances and treaties during the campaign and suggested he has no issue with Russian aggression.

US allies are apprehensive and a lot will now depend on whether Trump opts for experience or loyalty when appointing his top team.

The implications for Israel’s regional security are uncertain. An isolationist America will mean greater Russian influence and fewer troops, money and arms to help allies. This is good news for Iran, but bad news for Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which were already feeling sidelined. Expect them to move quickly to bind themselves to the new administration.

Trump has pledged to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, but that will be messy. Congress could scrap it, but that isn’t the end of the story. The other signatories – China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK – will stand by it. A simpler option would be to tighten sanctions, ruthlessly enforce the deal and deter US business investment in Iran.

If the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is on ice, then Trump won’t warm it up; he’ll shut the freezer as it’s nowhere near his list of priorities. A Trump administration will be much quieter on settlement expansion than Obama’s team and many in Israel’s governing coalition will welcome this.

Trump has pledged to move the US embassy to Jerusalem but this is easier than it sounds. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, but every president since has delayed its implementation.

Trump can just stop delaying it. His advisers will urge him to get a big concession from Israel before awarding such a prize. His officials will warn of the seismic impact in the Arab world.

He may just say: ‘What the hell, the crowds will love it.’

About the Author
James Sorene is CEO of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre in London and an analyst of Middle East Issues. He appears regularly on UK TV and Radio and writes for numerous newspapers and websites. He was previously a UK Government civil servant, Head of Communications for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg from 2011 to May 2015. From 1997 to 2000 he was Head of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London.
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