Trump’s first 100 days: A view from Israel

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By Norman Bailey

The first hundred days of the Trump Administration have passed, and although the figure is arbitrary, this is in fact a good time to comment on the new government in Washington since PA President Abbas has visted Washington and reports indicate a Trump visit to Israel in the near future.

Donald Trump became president of The United States, contrary to the near-unanimous opinion of the media and the commentators that his victory in the November elections was impossible, on Jan. 20, 2017. He assumed the helm of a country rent by economic, social and political divisions more serious than at any time since the period just prior to the Civil War in the 1850’s.

Candidate Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2016.

Obscene and worsening concentrations of wealth, a stagnant economy, a huge national debt, decimation of the middle class, record numbers of men of working age who have given up looking for work, record numbers of men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five living at home with their parents. Deterioration of the traditional family with alternative arrangements and constantly increasing divorce figures, rampant incivility in colleges and universities with unwillingness to even hear opinions contrary to the prevalent leftism, a reflection of increasing political polarization symbolized by Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Trump himself. Finally, the decomposition of the traditional dominant parties into internal warring factions resulting in a dysfunctional legislature and the inability to govern despite the almost total dominance of the Republican Party everywhere except the northeast and the West Coast. A panorama to dishearten even the most self-confident of individuals, such as the president himself.

On the domestic front Trump took office with four principal objectives: immigration reform, reversal of Obamacare, tax reform and regulatory reform. On the first three of these objectives, the hundred days have been a failure. Every one of the president’s immigration measures has been instantaneously struck down by the courts. Replacement of Obamacare was a dismal fiasco, demonstrating Trump’s misunderstanding of the political system and as the Marxists would say, the “correlation of forces” in Washington. His tax reform plan was declared “dead on arrival” by a Congress dominated by his own party.

Only on the deregulation can any success be claimed, with the reversal of the Obama decrees concerning fracking, the pipeline between the Canadian border and Texas, and the opening of areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans to oil exploration.

On the international front, the 100 days were somewhat better for the new president. After some initial stumbles, the key positions: secretary of state, secretary of defense and national security adviser are filled by competent people, to whom he pays attention. Vice President Pence has also been involved in foreign policy, to good effect.

Putin has been knocked off the pedestal that it appeared that Trump was going to place him and China is being handled with greater diplomatic subtlety than had been justifiably feared. The molly-coddling of North Korea is over with this administration, and Trump has managed to bring China into cooperation with the U.S., South Korea and Japan in demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear plans.

In the Middle East Iran has been put on notice that the Obama policy of accommodation is over, and its imperial designs in the Middle East will be actively countered while its feet will be held to the fire with reference to strict adherence to the six-power agreement. In like fashion, the Obama snubs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are also over and the Sunni arc of resistance to Iran and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaida and Islamic State will be supported by the U.S.

As for Israel, it is clear that the glee with which the Trump election was greeted by the Israeli government was overdone. There will be no blank check for Jerusalem to do whatever it wants with automatic U.S. approval. Although it is rumored that when the president visits he will announce that the embassy is being moved to Jerusalem, so far there is no official indication of that. The delusional “two-state solution” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been adopted by the Trump government (rumored to have been pressured in this regard by Ronald Lauder), so that apparently there will be another fatiguing round of pointless negotiations. Nevertheless, relations between the U.S. and Israel under Trump will be a significant improvement over the recent past, and the administration has already made it clear that reductions it is proposing on foreign aid will not affect defense cooperation with Israel.

In short, the 100 days have been a distinctly mixed bag, despite confident predictions of disaster by the same crowd which confidently predicted that he wouldn’t be nominated and then that he wouldn’t be elected. But the problems, as outlined above, are of monumental proportions, and solutions in many cases, are not obvious. Indeed in some cases, such as the national debt, it is not clear that there is any acceptable solution. But, as the saying is, the only thing about which we know nothing, is the future.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C., and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa. He was formerly with the U.S. National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.