This recent article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was originally published in Israel National News and republished here with the author’s consent.
TRUMP VS. OBAMA: WORDS AND SILENCE MATTER
U.S President Donald Trump’s public statements during his visit to Israel are of importance irrespective of what he said in private to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority’s Mohammed Abbas. This is even more the case because of the damage a variety of statements — and lack of them — by his predecessor Barack Obama and the previous U.S administration have caused Israel.
There is much criticism in the U.S of President Trump and his unpredictability. It comes mainly from those who wanted and expected his opponent Hillary Clinton to win the election. The attacks on the current president however do not diminish the importance of his words in Israel. The current President’s statements are all the more important as — contrary to the case with his predecessor — one “gets what one sees” with Trump.
Obama’s distorted, overly positive view of the Muslim world was already apparent early in his presidency. In his first trip abroad in 2009 he traveled to the non-democratic state of Egypt where he was received by President Husni Mubarak. The 2008 report of Freedom House ranked Egypt as a non-free country with a rating of 5.5 on a scale from 1 as best to 7 as worst. The report stated: “Egypt received a downward trend arrow due to its suppression of journalists’ freedom of expression, repression of opposition groups, and the passage of constitutional amendments that hinder the judiciary’s ability to balance against executive excess. “1
On that trip Obama intentionally bypassed U.S ally Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The American president did not berate the undemocratic character of the Egyptian. regime. Instead in his 2009 Cairo speech Obama apologized for Western “colonialism.” His sympathy did not help U.S ally Mubarak during the Arab spring, when Obama stabbed him in the back and pressured him to make concessions. 2
Obama hypocritically argued that his criticism of Netanyahu gave him credibility when defending the Jewish state in the world arena.3 But the Obama administration also regularly criticized Israel for settlement building as well as other issues.
This stands in sharp contrast to Obama’s avoidance of linking terrorist acts to Islam. Nor did he mention the wide support for undemocratic behavior in the Muslim world. Obama admitted that he refrained from using the words “Islamic terror” in describing Middle East extremism.4 The Obama administration referred to terror attacks by Muslims as “lone wolf attacks” and refused to use the term “radical Islam.”5 The terms “Islam” and “jihad,” “Islamic extremism,” radical Islamic terrorism,” and “radical Islam” were banned from US Security documents.6
The U.S has for a long time been Israel’s main ally. If a U.S administration is repeatedly so critical of Israel while remaining silent about the criminal behavior of its enemies, this can be interpreted as a signal to other countries. It has a negative multiplier effect. The Europeans have most probably been encouraged by Obama’s biased attitude to go beyond just criticizing Israel. Their labelling of goods from the territories while not doing the same for other similar areas in the world is an example. When Trump had already been elected as President, Obama let Israel down in yet another signal of encouragement to its enemies. The U.S abstained on Security Council resolution 2334 demanding an end to Israeli settlements. Trump had asked him to veto the resolution.7
One would have expected international media to analyze these matters in some detail after the Trump Middle East visit. If one checks Google on this subject many reports focus on a comparison of the notes the two presidents wrote at Yad Vashem. This marginal subject became the first significant topic in a lengthy article in the Washington Post. It was titled “The huge contrast between Obama’s and Trump’s visits to Israel’s Holocaust memorial.” 8
Trump did not mention the two state ‘solution’ in his speeches. Why should a U.S president preclude the outcome of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations? Or promise the creation of a second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan? Under Palestinian Authority leadership this state would be another corrupt Arab entity with substantial chances of failing. Yet another logical reason not to mention the two state ‘solution’ is that the PA does not control the Gaza Strip.
Nor did Trump mention settlements. There was no reason to do so. The central topic in Trump’s speeches in the Middle East focused on the fight against terror. It is worth noting that Trump also did not mention to the Palestinians that they should stop glorifying terrorist murderers of civilians, which sometimes also include Americans.
During his visit to Europe Trump continued to set the record straight. He reprimanded NATO leaders in Brussels saying that 23 out of 28 did not meet their financial commitments to the organization. He said: “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”9 This was a euphemism for saying that they are parasites on the U.S. The EU and several European states have been arrogantly telling Israel for many years how it should run its affairs. The idea that EU leaders are being told to own up to their commitments is considered unpleasant by many European leaders. From an Israeli viewpoint it is very positive that Trump told them off on their failures.
After Trump’s visit many European leaders may be nostalgic for Obama, who was partly responsible for letting the Middle East chaos develop and the diminishment of U.S standing in the world. Yet as Alan Dershowitz said about his fellow Harvard law graduate Barack Obama: he will be remembered as “one of the worst presidents in the foreign policy arena,’ who created a ‘terrible conflict’ for people who share other tenets of his ideology.”10