For the most part Israelis are glad for the election of President Trump. Many are pleased that he has recognized Jerusalem as the capital and is relocating the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Generally, they were relieved to see the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of this new one. They understand that President Trump is bombastic, but they are primarily concerned about his policies.
Israel is first and foremost interested in how American policy relates to it as a nation. They believe the Obama administration treated them unfairly. Israel was regularly blamed for the lack of progress in the peace process, yet the great majority of Israelis believe that the real holdup is the Palestinians’ refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state. While the Obama administration declared Jewish housing east of the 1948 armistice line to be the primary impediment to peace, most Jewish Israelis see the main issue as the intransigence and insincerity of a Palestinian leadership that does not really want peace. Twice in the past two decades Israeli governments have offered nearly all of the “West Bank” to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. Yet Arafat and Abbas walked away. This has convinced Israelis that there is no real partner for peace on the other side. Therefore, they elected a more conservative government under Benjamin Netanyahu.
In addition, since Gaza is ruled by Hamas (considered by Israel and the United States to be a terrorist organization), and since Abbas is no longer the elected leader of the Palestinians, there is no party that represents the Palestinians as a whole. We can talk to President Abbas, but he doesn’t have the authority to implement a peace agreement. Were he to run in an election, it is very possible he would lose and that Hamas would be elected in his place.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is inconsistent. Israelis are aware of this as well. The ambassador from the United States, David Friedman, says that settlements are not the problem. On the other hand, the U.S. State Department in general, has a long-standing record of negativity towards Israel. Israelis think and hope that Trump’s own sentiments are more in line with those of Ambassador Friedman. In any case, even though President Trump allows the inconsistency, at least he is more even handed than Obama. Israel also appreciates that the Trump administration is much more adamant in its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.
Israelis also admire Nikki Haley. Her strong defense of Israel at the United Nations is greatly appreciated. This is another great change, especially since the Obama administration allowed a condemnation of Israel to pass in the Security Council in regard to Israel.
There are other reasons why Israelis are happy with Donald Trump. Israel as a whole has moved away from its socialistic origins toward a more conservative direction. So Israelis are correspondingly comfortable with a more conservative government in the United States. This is reflected in other democratic nations as well. Conservative governments tend to be supportive of Israel, liberal governments less. We can compare Harper in Canada with Trudeau today. Governments in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand show that this is true in general.
Israelis might also be concerned that Donald Trump’s tendency to shoot from the lip (my phrase) could undercut the progress and that he could lose his political influence in America. They worry about Trump’s character issues. There are liberals in Israel who despise Netanyahu, who want to give in to the Palestinians and who think Israel is the problem. They miss Barack Obama. But they are by far the minority.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration newsletter, January 2018, and reposted with permission.