One has to be a pronounced Israel hater to fail to understand the joy of the Israeli Right’s supporters (a general term for a large part of the population and the government) over Donald Trump’s election as the next US president, the change of administration from Democratic to Republican and the appointment of David Friedman as the next American ambassador to Israel.
From thousands of miles away, in Jerusalem and beyond the Green Line, it seems as if the American noose has been removed all at once, and that as of next month there will be a celebration there and here and everything will be okay: The United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the communities beyond the Green Line will blossom and the threat of evacuation will be lifted from over their heads, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv will relocate to Jerusalem, and joy to the world.
The great enemy, Barack Obama and his administration, has been defeated. And now we will build and build and build on every hill and all over the place. Haven’t you read the new administration officials’ declarations of love for Israel? So much satisfaction. Each of them is competing against the other, and if Rabbi Meir Kahane rose from his grave he would likely be the happiest man on earth.
Let me guess that this will all be true until January 20, 2017. That day, the next president will take office along with thousands of government workers on different levels. It’s amazing to see this change of administration. I witnessed it once: During the days of George H. W. Bush, people used to tiptoe around him. Everyone was stiff in a dark suit and the respect for the president and for his position was apparent in every corner of the house. When his administration was replaced by Bill Clinton’s, the atmosphere changed completely: The White House rattled like noisy train engines. Suddenly, one could see sneakers in the hallways.
Trump and his associates are busy studying the “material,” as a president and his administration officials should be doing. Studying the “material” likely reveals that from the White House things look different to the way they seemed during the election campaign, like, for example, from a stadium in Chicago, when Trump could say whatever crossed his mind—and lie in order to gain votes. Suddenly, Trump and his team will find out that things are not so easy to solve: From the economy and health to an alleged technicality like moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
In this context, I remember when Yitzhak Rabin arrived in Washington to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the US during an election campaign there, and did not make a real effort to hide his support for Richard Nixon, the candidate who promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there. He began his first meeting with the president by inquiring about that promise. “Oh,” the president replied, “that is what I said and promised, but things look different from the Oval Office.”
The leader of the free world will have to take many things into consideration from now on, for example, concerning the bloc of countries, about 50 of them, that is giving Israel a hard time in every international institution, and the Russian and Chinese veto at the United Nations, which will be almost automatic.
Trump, who has never been involved in politics and in government work, will be surprised to discover in his role as president just how much he didn’t know about the administration. He already knows a lot of what he didn’t know, and he will learn a lot more. He will have to take the whole world into consideration, small and big details, one of the “small” details being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which will take up a lot of his time—a lot more than he thinks.