May 26, 2017
By: Jack Rosen
Jack Rosen is the President of the American Jewish Congress and CEO of Rosen Partners, LLC.
Now that the President has firmly touched down in Europe and attention has moved away from the Middle-East, we wanted to look at the five take-aways from his visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia, what we can expect and how they will impact the region going forward.
1. Trump’s vows on extremism
The President’s comments on extremism were extraordinary, the leader of the free world drew a crowd of prominent Arab leaders and told them to ‘drive out’ extremism from their countries. This was unprecedented. He was rightly applauded for encouraging leaders to rid themselves of terror and do everything they can to face up to terrorism. America needs to play an active role in the region, if they are the policeman we often see a change in behaviour from across the Middle-East. Trumps speech is an important step and we all hope that it will have an effect on the war on terror. His behaviour was the opposite of what many had predicted, would it be too much to call it a U-turn?
2. Direct flights
If Trump was out to make a point on this trip it wasn’t through his normal disruptive behaviour. No matter what your opinions on his views, he certainly knows how to get a reaction. On this trip we saw none of that. Rather the focus was on diplomacy and extending the hand of friendship. One possible exception was his direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel. The difficulty in travelling between the two countries is known but the President was out to make a statement, Israel is his ally and he was not ashamed to express it.
3. Trump at the Kotel
The image of Trump at the Western Wall, was very powerful. He wanted to take in the majesty of Israel and became the first serving President to visit. This was Trump reaching out to the Jewish community following a number of months where there has been an obvious tension between his premiership and our communities. We may find out what his note said, as it seems likely that it will end up online, but the contents shouldn’t matter. This was an important and necessary gesture and we should be pleased he did it.
4. The Iran Nuclear Deal
The Iran Nuclear Deal was disastrous for Israel and the Israeli people. It was no surprise that when Trump stated ‘Iran will not be a nuclear power,’ that he was greeted by applause. It came in the context of Trump reaffirming his commitment to Israel and the peace deal saying, ‘we will get it done.’ While actions speak far louder than words, this was an important engagement with both sides and one that we hope will lead to progress. We have always argued for greater dialogue and this was the first step.
5. Don’t mention the Embassy
While the Ambassador seemed to accompany Trump throughout his visit, there was no mention of moving the Embassy. This key election pledge seems to have disappeared. While it may not have been the deciding factor in the peace process, it may have been a catalyst for a faster and more efficient process. It shouldn’t overshadow a successful trip but it certainly represents another U-turn from the President. Add that to his cordial meeting with the Pope on Wednesday and the predictions that his talks with NATO will be softer than expected, all in all we saw a new President. Let’s hope he is effective.