Trump era in Middle East: Everything has to be paid for

Alexander Goldenstein

Israeli political consultant, advisor for the Donald Trump campaign in Israel.

The short (just a day) visit of US President Donald Trump to Israel ended on May 23. For the record, the head of the strongest power of the planet even visited Bethlehem, but his meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was, more likely, of symbolic significance. The main discussions took place in Jerusalem, at the meeting between Trump and the PM of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

No analyst or journalist would exactly tell you what issues were discussed, argued or agreed. The Israeli right is happy that the pro-Iranian idealist Barack Obama was replaced by Trump, who, they believe, will not prevent the Jewish state from developing, building new settlements, and who knows, can really move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Israeli left added a new verse to their endless bleak “Song of Peace” titled “Since Trump found a common language with Netanyahu, then it’s time to negotiate with the Palestinians.”

Everyone is satisfied, and everyone is wrong. Trump is not a “messiah”, he is not bothered by the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, is indifferent to where the US Embassy is located, will not initiate the peace process just for the sake of the process and has got enough problems in his homeland.

I have no doubt that Trump – unlike Obama – is a true ally of Israel. He does not bow to the Saudi king – it is the latter who performs a traditional Bedouin dance of swords in honor of the dearest guest. Trump perfectly understands that Iran is a cancerous tumor not only on the body of the Middle East, but also of the whole world. So, in general, all the moderate powers in the region have found a partner in his person (although, frankly speaking, we can only call Riyadh moderate because of hundreds of billions of dollars, that become tens and hundreds of thousands of jobs in America itself).

But Trump is a deal maker, a businessman, a man of specifics. It is easy to forget that he ran a financial empire if we look at his epatage and scandals, but when it comes to deals, he is exactly good at them. And having such a bargaining chip as the entire military and economic power of the United States, it becomes easier to conclude deals. And Trump lets everyone know that the “freebie” times have passed. Enough, “Basta”! And therefore all actors know that the rules of the game have changed.

Mr. Abbas, do you want us to help you reach a peaceful settlement? Very good, but what will you give in return? And if you really believe in peace, then let me ask the reason why you direct the lion’s share of foreign aid to the support of terrorists? Mr. Netanyahu, you are claiming that you want normalization of relations with moderate Arab countries? I understand, I understand. But what concessions are you ready for? What are you willing to give us, the United States, for our intervention? King Salman, are you concerned about Iran? We can help solve this problem. But, what about a fatter contract and the normalization of relations with a small country on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea? This is the approach of Donald Trump to what is happening not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world. If you want something, pay the bills, or at least come towards us.

It can be said that the mischievous saxophonist, the narrow-minded cowboy and the short-sighted dreamer were replaced by an assertive deal maker. Despite his ostentatious scandalousness, silly statements and a dubious reputation, it is possible that he will be able to slightly alleviate the tension in our region, and even, who knows, throughout the world.

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