Rethinking is integral to judgment. When we stop rethinking, it's time to shut down our Internet connection and everything else.

 
A reasonable assessment of Donald Trump has not gone from terrible to wonderful. Or even from bad to good. 
 
He remains a mystery, created by his own incapacity to speak or Tweet firmly within--or even close to--the realm of truth. He stretches way beyond others in his league what's expected from politicians with respect to something close to reality.
 
Except with respect to one issue close to these fingers. That's the reality of Palestinian expectations and tactics.
 
And at least for the time being, he has produced some pleasant surprises with respect to North Korea.
 
Neither Palestine nor North Korea is close to a resolution, and it's appropriate to express fear and trembling about the capacity of Donald Trump to manage things further.
 
However, developments with respect to North Korea appear to have ratcheted down from imminent catastrophe to the prospect of coexistence.
 
For this, we owe at least as much to the South Koreans as to Donald Trump. Their willingness to deal, invest, and aid their cousins to the North, and to avoid chronic panic, along with their military capacity has served us all well. Trump's earlier bluster was frightening, and we can hope that there's a mutual willingness to deal.
 
But there is a big HOWEVER. North Korean leaders have not proved to be reliable when seeming to commit themselves to abandon a nuclear program.
 
And now there seems to be a chill coming from the North, with threats that the highly touted meeting might not occur, and that North Korea would not consider giving up its nuclear weapons.
 
Trump's pull out from the Iran deal, and his threat of sanctions is no less problematic.. 
 
An international near-consensus of experts was the Iran was abiding to the terms of the agreement. Yet a narrower, if substantial consensus, was that the agreement was severely flawed, not only in being limited in time, but in failing to address Iran's aggressive moves in developing missiles and supporting violence.
 
Perhaps a more delicate move would have been to uphold the existing agreement, but to insist--with the use of severe sanctions--that Iran negotiate an acceptable agreement on the matters so far unresolved.
 
However, political judgment cannot insist on all the details being ideal. 
 
Trump's' pull out, and his implied threat to Europeans wanting to do business with Iran that such activity might come at the expense of not being able to do business with Americans, stands as a credible move against the naivete of the Obama-Kerry team in this and other matters concerned with the Middle East.
 
It's appropriate to think about such things in the context of Iran's continued rants against Israel as well as the United States, and its moves in Syria.
 
Israel has acted on a number of occasions against Iranian provocations and overt aggression, so far with the score heavily titled to Israel's success.
 
What this suggests is the near emptiness of Iranian rants, its military weakness, and the fragility of its economy and domestic tranquility. The exchange rate of the Iranian Rial is a ludicrous 42,000 to the dollar.
 
It's a time to press, not to appease Iranian aggression, as well as its nuclear ambitions.
 
Trump looks especially good when compared to his predecessor.
 
Barack Obama would win any speech contest in an overwhelming victory. Yet what he said, with respect to the Middle East, was far less praiseworthy than how he said it.
 
His iconic speech in Cairo early in his presidency won him a Nobel Peace Prize, but that was nothing more than a reason to rethink the value of Nobel Prizes. Calling for democracy in countries where the components of democracy do not fit with deeply seated cultural and religious norms was not only foolhardy but also dangerous. Brief cheers for Arab Spring turned into dismay about Arab Winter.

Cause and effect are problematic in such matters of social complexity, but Barack Obama deserves at least some of the blame for a Holocaust across Syria, Libya, and Yemen measured in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of displacements. It puts him in the league with his predecessor, George W. Bush, whose heroic but simpleminded removal of an Iraqi regime produced an equivalent Holocaust of deaths and displacements. Both tragedies continue not only as horrendous for the people suffering, but as sufficient reason to condemn the records of both US Presidents and the country they led.
 
So far, Donald Trump has not done anything nearly so destructive. 
 
He deserves our applause. But maybe with only with one hand.
 
A recent cartoon in Ha'aretz showed a convoy of trucks on their way to Jerusalem, each carrying the label, "US Embassy," with Trump one of the truck drivers.


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The image apes the iconic memory of Israeli fighters pushing their way through the mountain pass on their way to relieve Jerusalem in 1948.

The cartoon in Ma'ariv proclaimed that Jersusalem had become the holy city for four religions, with the newest symbolized with a big T. 
 
One of Jerusalem's football teams, Beitar, has added "Trump" to its name.
 
The problem for the politically correct is that Beitar is noted for its support by extreme rightists who qualify for the label of football hooligans, and are noted for racist chants against Arab competitors.
 
A comparison between Trump and Obama that makes Trump look good focuses on their postures toward the Middle East. He and his Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, have been prominent in their defense of Israel in the brouhaha about the IDF's use of deadly force against Gazan mobs totaling some 40,000 intent on penetrating the border and creating their own deadly mayhem in Israel.
 
With respect to domestic policy, it may be a win for Obama, especially if the focus is on health. On gun control, a modest bow to the rhetoric of Obama, with an acknowledgement that he accomplished nothing. The same might be said for those who would applaud Donald's bombast on immigration. Sound and fury with little apparent result. Or maybe damage for those needing workers to do the menial things Americans avoid.
 
A multiple of mysteries can focus the variety of allegations against Trump and members of his staff. Something or other may bring him down, but us distant observers are beyond thinking about an early impeachment or resignation.
 
Israelis are wise to rely on the greater wisdom displayed by our own leaders, who may deserve as least some of the credit for bringing Donald Trump along to where he has gotten on Iran and the folly of Palestinian aspirations.
 
We also have some tough thinking to do. 
 
While we should appreciate what we gotten from Benjamin Netanyahu with respect to the subtlety of arrangements with Russia in Syria as well as his continued pressing about the flaws in the deal with Iran, we also have to judge his roles in some obvious problems of domestic corruption. 
 
There are many willing to put up with personal faults in high places in exchange for decent performance with respect to matters of national defense and economy. Others express fury at revelations of personal and family immorality, as well as appointments that have benefited close supporters no less corrupt.
 
Son Yair's' latest contribution is an Internet posting that has gone viral, directed at a spat of nastiness coming out of Turkey. 

 His artful rendition of "F**k Turkey suggests that he ​might have missed some lessons while studying international relations at the Hebrew University.
 
An effort to shield the young man from the efforts of the Foreign Ministry to tamp down the problems with Turkey was a lame statement that Yair is a private citizen, expressing his own opinion.
 
Polls show Israelis' ambivalence. Majorities have expressed the view that Bibi should go, as well as the likelihood of him leading in the next national election.
 
We can all express ourselves in such complexity, but the important decisions will come from the police, the public prosecutor, the judges chosen to sit at whatever trial may occur, or his political colleagues who short-circuit the judicial process by deciding that they've heard enough.
 
Should we be happy with our rethinking to this point? Or keep on rethinking, about both of the political twins at the top of their governments?
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

irashark@gmail.com 
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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