President Trump’s speech at the United Nations reminded me why I believe Trump is the most dangerous United States president in history. I am not talking about the dangers of war or the risks to the American legal system, all of which are very real, but why he is the most dangerous president in American history for Israel. Israel, you say. Isn’t Trump a big friend of Israel? After all, he moved the embassy to Jerusalem … He has been cutting off aid to the Palestinians, something that Israelis support! … He has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Commission, mostly because the Commission seemed obsessed with chastising Israel instead of dealing with the more egregious human rights violators. ‘How is Donald Trump dangerous to Israel?’ you ask.
Trump is dangerous to Israel for precisely the reasons I predicted in an article that I wrote the week before the 2016 election, calling on Jews not to vote for him.
Donald Trump is weakening the United States on the world stage in ways from which it will be difficult to recover. When was the last time a president of the United States was laughed at when addressing the UN? That, of course, is what happened right at the beginning of Tuesday’s speech, when he made the ridiculous claim (which he often makes) that he has achieved more in two years than was accomplished by any other President in US history. However, let’s leave that comment aside and look at some of what Trump said after he finished boasting about how strong the US economy is and how big the military will be.
Let’s focus on this statement by President Trump: “That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.” I think everyone will agree that no one wants global domination, but global governance with the control of the benign hegemon, i.e. the United States, is the cornerstone of the world the US built out of the ashes of World War II, a system President Trump is determined to trash.
The President went on to say: “The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.” Of course, what is left unsaid is that the United States will no longer tell the Polish government or leaders in the Philippines that they should follow democratic norms, or enforce basic human rights.
Trump stated: “The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking.” He then continued: “Every solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria must also include a strategy to address the brutal regime that has fueled and financed it.” I was sure he was going to speak about Assad, perhaps Putin, (but of course he could not get himself to criticize Putin), instead he used this introduction as a transition to threaten Iran. I have no qualms with anything the President said about Iran, though I do not believe his unilateral approach will work. In the end, I fear Israel will be in greater danger as a result of his walking away from the Iran nuclear agreement.
The President then moved on to talk about trade, which is the area in which I believe he is weakening the US the most. His obsession with trade deficits is destroying the international trade order that the US built. He walked away from TPP on his first day in office and has not looked back.
Trump went on to say: “The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer.” He then spoke about how the US was being taken advantage of by the world regarding trade. He clearly misses the most crucial point. What are the five most valuable companies in the world today? They are all American. Why are these American companies so successful? Because they can operate on a global scale, with few boundaries. It has been the US that has benefited most from the worldwide trading system it built, the one he is working to destroy.
In case we did not pick up his disdain for global institutions earlier in his speech, Trump went on to say: “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”
Interestingly, after initially praising the Gulf States and the great relationship he has with them, Trump went on to attack OPEC saying: “OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it. Nobody should like it. We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good.” It seemed as if entirely different people wrote different parts of the speech.
Suddenly, in the middle of the speech, he decided to gratuitously attack the Germans for building a gas line to Russia.
The next portion of the speech, where he talked about stopping illegal immigration, was clearly written by Stephen Miller. Trump then actually made news, by saying that the “United States will not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration. Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens.” … Another international agreement the US is walking away from.
Trump then went on to state that US foreign aid will not go to those who need it the most, but rather“we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”
Israelis can be proud to be one of four countries Trump called out for how well we are doing. The other three were — India, okay… but then Saudi Arabia (which has arrested those who are demanding their rights) and Poland (where an authoritarian government is in the midst of extinguishing its democracy). We’re in wonderful company.
Finally, towards the end of his speech, he returned to one of his favorite themes — “Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived.” In case it was not clear until now — multilateralism is dead. America and the rest of the world will act alone.
So you ask again, why is this bad for Israel? Very Simply, in weakening the United States on the world stage, Donald Trump is abandoning America’s role as enlightened hegemon. He is saying that the very world institutions that magnified American power are no longer important for the United States. Trump is eliminating America’s secret weapon, its soft power. When the time comes and Israel needs America’s assistance on the world stage it will be unable to help. Its influence will have diminished, the world will no longer be dependent on it. The US alliance has always been Israel’s strongest strategic asset other than the IDF. A weaker US, is a weaker Israel, and make no mistake, Donald Trump is weakening America.