Think About It: Trump’s first foreign trip – nightmare or reason for hope?

The worst that can happen in the eyes of the current Israeli government is that something will result.

May 21, 2017 21:10
3 minute read.
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One May 19, 2017.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One May 19, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

My gut feeling is that US President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip is regarded as a nightmare by many of those directly involved or affected.

It is a nightmare for all those responsible for the president’s safety – especially in the course of the Middle East part of the trip – because Trump is unpredictable, and is liable to demand instantaneous changes in his itinerary.

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His immediate staff have the additional worry that due to his lack of predictability, and lack of full comprehension of the material and especially the fine details, Trump is liable to make a verbal slip that will make his embarrassing revelation to the Russian foreign minister of confidential intelligence seem like a harmless quip. Such a slip might have much more grievous consequences if occurring in the Middle East rather than the Oval Office.

For at least certain dominant parts of the Israeli government it is a potential nightmare because Trump may deal its messianic and/or chauvinistic dreams a mortal blow.

The fact that Trump will apparently renege on his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the insistence on his visit to the Western Wall taking place without any official Israeli presence and repeated allusions by his team to the fact that trying to reach a historic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has precedence over Israel’s settlement activities in Judea and Samaria are certainly not a palliative.

For Trump’s Evangelical Christian supporters in the US the nightmare is different. What worries many Israelis for Jewish messianic reasons worries the Evangelists for Christian messianic reason. Furthermore, the choice of the Catholic pope as the embodiment of Christianity in Trump’s “three monotheistic religions trip” certainly does not warm Evangelists’ hearts.

Pope Francis may or may not view his forthcoming meeting with Trump as a nightmare, but it is doubtful the meeting is something he is looking forward to. If anyone embodies the exact opposite of Trump it is Jorge Mario Bergoglio – the most modest and liberal Catholic pope ever.

How Trump’s various continental European hosts perceive their scheduled meetings with him is anyone’s guess. Perhaps “nightmare” is not the correct word, though I suspect many of them will sigh with relief when Air Force One is en route back across the Atlantic without any additional damage having been caused by a US president who lauded Britain’s departure from the EU, spoke disparagingly of NATO during his election campaign and expressed support for Marine Le Pen during the recent French presidential elections.

But who knows – perhaps Trump will play along with the carefully put together efforts of his foreign affairs team to make amends, or alternatively an exhausted Trump will let “the Donald” loose. We will be much the wiser in a few days’ time.

Who does not view the Trip as a nightmare? First of all the Palestinian Authority that is already relieved by the fact that at least for the time being the US embassy will not be moved o Jerusalem, that some senior American diplomats have implied that as far as they are concerned the Western Wall is not part of the sovereign territory of Israel, and suggestions that President Trump will declare recognition for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination – it being understood that “self-determination” implies a two-state solution.

Furthermore, the PA does not have the same reservations the Israeli government currently has about direct negotiations without preconditions, which is what Trump appears to be pushing for. From the Palestinian point of view the worst that can happen is that nothing will result from all the talk about a historic compromise, while the worst that can happen in the eyes of the current Israeli government is that something will result. I’d give a penny to know what Jason Greenblatt (Trump’s Jewish chief Middle East negotiator) feels about all of this.

Last but not least, the rulers of the country where President Trump began his trip – Saudi Arabia – were the least likely to view his visit as a nightmare. For them the implied fulfillment of all their security dreams (despite Trump’s suggestion during his campaign that Saudi Arabia should increase its contribution toward paying for it) is a dream come true. Saudi Arabia is also relieved that the US currently has a president who is unlikely to badger it about such trivialities as human rights, who is suspicious of Iran and most of its allies and who thinks like a businessman, who has adopted an “America first” approach to replace the previous “international justice and world reform” one.

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