Israel’s Foreign Ministry believes U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will reduce America’s involvement in the Middle East in general and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, according to a document written by ministry researchers and disseminated to Israeli diplomats throughout the world.
The document, the contents of which were obtain by Haaretz, stresses that Trump’s statements during his campaign do not indicate a coherent policy on the issue.
“As part of his minimal interest in foreign affairs, Trump doesn’t see the Middle East as a good investment and it’s reasonable to assume he will seek to reduce American involvement in the region, alongside his commitment to maintaining the struggle against Islamic State and the momentum created in the battle for the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which will continue to get his administration’s support,” the document states.
“The diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians will not be a top priority for the Trump administration and it’s reasonable to assume this topic will also be influenced by the staff surrounding him and developments in the field. Trump’s declarations do not necessarily point to a coherent policy on this issue. On the one hand he has expressed support for the settlements and for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but in other statements he said that he wants to remain neutral and that the two sides should reach a deal themselves.”
Written by the ministry’s Center for Political Research, “The Trump Administration — Preliminary Comments” attempts to determine the future president’s foreign policy, with special attention to China, Russia and Europe, and domestic policies.
The main message of the paper, which represents the position of the ministry’s professional echelons, is that the Trump administration is expected to conduct an isolationist policy. The researchers say that at the start of his term, Trump will try to differentiate himself from the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, but he could be expected subsequently to adopt Obama’s belief that the United States must stop trying to be the world’s policeman.
Trump’s presidency is expected to redefine the global role of the United States, the document states. “Trump will be a challenge for the international community because it’s difficult to know what his positions are and because he has limited interest in foreign affairs … it’s hard to characterize his position given his contradictory statements … but his administration is likely to lean toward isolationism and reducing international involvement.”
The authors stressed that as a businessman, Trump analyzes issues through the prism of profit and loss. His foreign policy is expected to focus on narrow and immediate American interests rather than on a broad and comprehensive worldview.
“Trump has expressed contradictory positions on key issues and it isn’t clear if this reflects a practical policy,” the document says. “We believe Trump’s limited familiarity with the international arena will make the team he brings with him to the White House even more important, since it will have broad influence in setting the administration’s foreign policy.”
According to the document, Trump sees Russia as a potential partner for dialogue, particularly with regard to the war in Syria. The Foreign Ministry researchers recall in this context that Trump has expressed implied support for leaving Syrian President Bashar Assad in power and limiting U.S. military aid to the rebels. According to the document, Trump views China as a threat to the United States and wants to convey American power to the Chinese. With regard to Iran, the researchers wrote that during the campaign Trump took a contrary stance, opposing last year’s nuclear deal, and made conflicting statements about whether he would uphold the agreement if elected, but toward the end of the campaign he stopped calling for it to be voided.
The ministry’s initial assessment also addressed Trump’s relationship with U.S. allies throughout the world. “His business outlook may lead to a change in America’s international relations and influence his actions in the multilateral arena. Trump won’t flinch from reconsidering the stationing of American forces abroad, from calling for a reevaluation of America’s role in the NATO alliance, and from rolling back some of the international trade agreements the United States has signed.”
The paper also addresses how Trump will deal with domestic issues upon entering office on January 20. The ministry researchers noted that the divisive election could drag America into a serious domestic crisis and lead to fundamental changes in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“Trump’s victory exposed deep currents in American society and the bitterness and disgust with the Washington establishment and the values represented by President Obama,” the document says.
“The Democrats’ expectation of a Clinton victory was based on the changing face of America and the support of the coalition of minorities that had supported Obama. This expectation was dashed by the low voter turnout among minorities and Trump’s ability to motivate an opposing coalition made up primarily of white men … the rift that was exposed in full force during the elections may get worse. It isn’t clear whether Trump can or will want to do what is needed to meet the challenge of healing society, especially given his offensive statements during the election campaign.”
The ministry researchers added that both major political parties are expected to do some soul-searching following the elections, although the Republican victory may delay the process in that party.
“The Republican Party is characterized by gaps between the positions of the party establishment and the positions of the president-elect,” the document says. “It isn’t clear if unity is possible. It’s too early to determine how Trump will choose to act toward the Republican establishment after many of its senior officials alienated themselves from him … but his lack of political experience may force him to cooperate with them.”
On the other side of the political map, the Foreign Ministry researchers believe the election results will strengthen the Democratic Party’s left wing, led by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.