HAIFA, Israel — Initial reactions in the Middle East to Donald Trump’s election have ranged from positive and cautiously optimistic (Israel, Egypt, Jordan, parts of the Saudi family, the United Arab Emirates, etc.), to outright disbelief and borderline panic (Iran, Qatar, parts of the Saudi family, the Palestinians, Morocco, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.).
Most analysts attribute the reactions to two main factors:
1. Statements made by candidate Trump during the campaign about support for Israel, on the one hand, and possible U.S. isolationism, on the other.
2. A widespread belief throughout the Muslim world that a president Clinton would be “very sympathetic” to their interests, causes and business affairs thanks to exceptionally large donations to the Clinton Family Foundation, and the fact that Huma Abedin, who grew up in Saudi Arabia and has close ties family to the Muslim Brotherhood, would have had unfettered access and influence in the Oval Office.
As Trump’s inner circle begins to take shape the Israelis are happy with his assumed choice for Ambassador to Israel — his senior advisor David Friedman, who said in an interview this week that: “Trump believes that everyone in Israel — from people on the right to people on the left — want peace. No one wants their children to continue to be killed in wars,” adding that in any negotiations, with the Palestinians: “Trump will let Israel lead … he won’t force Israel.”
And while there is initial concern with the choice of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist because of alleged past anti-Semitic comments, commentators here observe that though he is a strong supporter of Israel, he will be involved mainly in domestic policy (“draining the swamp”). Trump said that Bannon and Reince Priebus (incoming chief of staff) would work “as equal partners to transform the federal government.”
Trump’s possible foreign policy doctrine, especially regarding the Middle East, is a mixed bag. I tend to agree with senior analyst Ron Ben Yishai, who wrote this week in Ynet that “Trump and the Russians will agree to fight the Islamic State together, but Trump will let the Russians help Bashar Assad win.
This means that the radical Shiite axis led by Iran, with Russian aid and defense, will tighten its grip and its strategic abilities in the Middle East in general, and particularly in the ‘Shiite spectrum.’ This is very bad for the State of Israel and it is also bad for the Arab Gulf states (which supported Clinton).”
Regarding Iran, Trump will probably not cancel the nuclear agreement. However over here they feel strongly that it’s possible that he will accept Israel’s requests to tighten the intelligence supervision on Iran and to respond to any violation on its part with serious sanctions and/or military action.
According to Ben Yishai, the Trump administration and Congress will “also generously accept Israel’s arming requests so that the IDF would be able to respond with all its might in case Iran makes a breakthrough toward a nuclear bomb.”
As for the “peace talks,” analysts here agree that, the two-state-for-two-people formula will likely enter a deep freeze for a long time, at least until there is a leadership change with the Palestinians. As I mentioned above, Trump will probably not try to impose any solution or even peace negotiations, certainly not based on Israeli concessions only.
As of this writing, we’re still waiting to find out who the Secretary of State will be, and if that person will have the skills to re-establish respect for, and confidence in the United States as a world leader to be trusted and respected in a very volatile Middle East…
I hope so.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: email@example.com
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.