Conventional wisdom cites three factors that rule Trump out as a credible peacemaker: He’s placed no priority on Middle East peace negotiations; he’s deeply, undeniably ignorant about the region, with scant awareness of its tortured history or current leaders; he faces numerous scandals and clamorous calls for impeachment, making it tough to function effectively.
Ironically, each of these apparent handicaps could actually work to Trump’s advantage in earning Middle Eastern success. First, it’s a net plus that the Trump administration makes new negotiations a low priority. Presidents never succeed by pressuring Israel and its Arab enemies to make peace deals according to State Department specifications. Obama’s eagerness to press the Israelis for concessions signaled to Abu Mazen that no real compromise was necessary. Trump’s disengagement delivers a more realistic message: As time goes by, the Palestinian position grows weaker, not stronger.
Second, Trump’s unsophisticated approach to the Middle East means that he comes at pertinent issues without preconceptions. At his February press conference with Bibi Netanyahu, the president expressed no preference between two-state and one-state solutions. This attitude gives the disputants the broadest possible latitude to work out their own solution, which the United States would support, not direct.
Third, his political troubles at home might stop the president from inserting himself into the center of the process like an all-conquering hero. Ironically, weakened, faltering presidents have fared best in the Middle East peace. Richard Nixon confronted imminent impeachment when his personal intervention rescued Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, setting the stage for future negotiations with Egypt.
Donald Trump may face daunting odds against repealing Obamacare, reforming taxes, or building a border wall. But meaningful progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations might offer an outside chance for surprise success.
Michael Medved hosts a syndicated radio show heard in more than 300 markets across the country and is the author of the current bestseller The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic.
Our president, Donald Trump, claims to be the ultimate deal maker. He has stated that achieving Middle East peace would be the ultimate deal. With his experience in the Manhattan business world, he thinks he can do anything. His trusted team, including Jared Kushner, who has no experience in foreign policy while being in charge of negotiating peace, and ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who compared less religious and liberal Jews to Nazis, are not people the president would pick if he were serious about peace.
But is peace really what he wants? Look at Trump’s business dealings, from his bankruptcies to his labor disputes to even his divorces. Love him or hate him, Trump has made money. Even in the unlikeliest of situations he has made a profit. But the difference between business and international peace is that success is about different things. In business, the goal is obviously profit, whether or not every single party is happy long term. For lasting peace, everyone at the table has to feel trust. Peace is easy to break. So, when Trump makes inflammatory statements or appoints people like Friedman who’ve only supported a one-state solution, it will be difficult for the Palestinians to negotiate with him at the table — even if he has spoken in favor of easing restrictions on their economy.
Maybe he doesn’t want peace. Maybe like every other transaction, he’s trying to make a buck off people he thinks are dumber than he is. It may shock some in the Jewish community to think that the president views Israel as something he can sell out for a profit. But how does he think of Israel and Jews in general? He refused to acknowledge the Holocaust as a Jewish event. He couldn’t write more than a sentence about Yad Vashem. Even during the campaign, he just talked about Jews as stereotypical “deal makers.” Trump will use the Middle East to grow his fortune, no matter who suffers.
Matt Kanter is the current chair of the King County Young Democrats and serves on the City of Seattle’s Commission for People with DisAbilities. He works as a vendor at Microsoft.