Will Donald Trump get the credit he deserves for engineering a wide-ranging process that will benefit the American people as well as Israel’s national security?
By Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Israel Hayom
One of the deepest-rooted conventions in American politics is the belief that a president’s successes in the international arena play only a minor role for voters, compared to domestic affairs – the economy and public safety, primarily.
Indeed, other than the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972, at which then-President Richard Nixon changed – almost in an instant – the framework of an international relationship and created a new strategic partnership with communist China that directed led to him being elected for a second term, it would be hard to find any presidential election that centered around foreign policy issues.
There is no disagreement hat domestic issues take priority today, too, with the US in the midst of the COVID pandemic and its cities are being engulfed by protests. Nevertheless, people know that today’s summit in Washington is one of considerable importance. Not necessarily because of the precise content of the Abraham Accord slated to be signed there, but mostly in the context of how they might influence the image of President Trump as a decisive, daring, and consistent leader who is able to take full advantage of an opportunity presented to him to create a major change in the character of the Middle East and the accepted rules of the game there.
This is a stark contrast to the public perception that he is capricious and improvises according to whims and emotions, rather than working according to well-formulated plans. The current president, who from the start saw foreign policy matters as secondary, is the one who managed to crack the operating and behavioral code of at least a few countries in the region, and set them on the path of reconciliation and diplomatic, economic, and security partnership with Israel.
This, therefore, is the message from today’s meeting. It is also the source of Trump’s success in spotting the right moment in the peace process that was brought about by a change in the equation of threats and opportunities. After many years of the Gulf states failing to handle the threat of radical Islam by paying protection to ensure the stability of their governments, they are tired of it.
Given the American determination to reduce its presence in the region, it is only natural to look toward Israel with the expectation that strategic partnership with it will provide an “Iron Dome” against the palpable threat from Iran. It is to Trump’s credit that, on his visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2017, he was able to identify the fear and vulnerability among his traditional Gulf allies. That was the building block for the White House’s groundbreaking plan that gave the threatened leaders the lifeline they desired, and allowed them to throw off anachronistic paradigms about Israel and come back down to diplomatic realism.
Specifically, the peace plan that Trump put together, which he has started implementing in a modular fashion, gave the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain (with the blessing of Saudi Arabia) legitimacy to finally “come out of the closet” and openly launch an era of warm peace with Israel. The way they see it, the framework provides an appropriate solution to the traditional demand for an independent Palestinian state, even under limitations and not in the immediate future.
Trump has therefore managed to get all his ducks in a row and connect the Gulf states’ sense of threat to Israel’s willingness to work with them to establish a sort of “security regime” that could make a major contribution to effectively deterring Iran. After endless ideas and plans for peace, starting with John F. Kennedy and through Barak Obama’s time, that failed to make the desired breakthrough, the 45th president was able to serve as the architect of an agreement that can change the balance of power in the region from the ground up.
The question is whether he will get the credit he deserves for leadership and his ability to envision and design wide-ranging geo-strategic processes, and by doing so contribute to the well-being of the American people as well, of course, to Israel’s national security. Time will tell.