Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amid the amazing triumph of Republican billionaire Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the American presidential election on Tuesday, there has risen concern over what the victory means for Israel. And there is some reason for it.
First and foremost, there is no political record in government office for Donald Trump, the first US president to have never won any political contest or to have held a senior military position before election to that office. Then there is the concern about any Republican president, as Republicans have often been hostile to Israel. During the two terms of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, the United States leaned toward the Arabs and against Israel. Indeed, the United States never sold weapons to Israel in the 1950s. Secretary of state John Foster Dulles, like his brother CIA director Allen Dulles, was often openly anti-Israel. In March 1957, after the smashing Israeli victory in the 1956 Sinai campaign, the United States openly demanded (and got) the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai and Gaza Strip. After a more nuanced government attitude during the Reagan years, the single term of president George H.W. Bush saw an open battle with Israel over the Israeli need for an American loan to settle over a million Russian Jewish immigrants. By contrast, the years of George W. Bush were less hostile.
Furthermore, there have been a number of antisemitic and even anti-Israel elements in the Trump campaign. The far Right (alt) of the Republican Party, associated with Trump, is often openly antisemitic. Trump’s own slogan of “Make American Great Again” echoes the late 1930s antisemitic campaign of Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” campaign. And the Ku Klux Klan has evidently endorsed Trump, as have a number of right-wing anti-Semitic elements.
But, there are many elements that can overcome these worries for Israelis. Donald Trump is very much a family man. Witness his victory speech at 3 a.m. on Wednesday when he was flanked by the future vice president Mike Pence on the left and his youngest child, Barron, age 10, on the right. He is very close to his son-inlaw Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism. Trump’s Israel policy team is dominated by people who are strongly pro-Israel, including global terrorism and Middle Eastern affairs scholar Walid Phares, Israel adviser Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner.
Furthermore, his likely initial foreign policy – working with Russia, negating the Iran deal, rebuilding the American military and working with the Sunni bloc in the Middle East – fits well into Israeli policy. Israel works well with Russia, would welcome negating the Iran deal, and would hail the building of a stronger American military and the strengthening of the Sunni bloc.
These days, in a transformation of the last few decades, the Republican Party is far more pro-Israel than the Democratic Party. The overwhelming majority of Republicans (a stunning 79%) support the Israelis while a meager 7% support the Palestinians. This is an 11:1 ratio! By contrast, a bare majority of Democrats (53%) support the Israelis and 23% support the Palestinians.
So although January 20, the day Donald Trump will assume the presidency, is still distant and his policies are somewhat murky, the early indications are that he will bring a more supportive American foreign policy that Israelis will eagerly welcome.
Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.