International Affairs

When it comes to Israel, Trump’s first 100 days were one big fail

In an election where fewer than one in four Jewish voters supported Donald Trump, members of the tribe who voted for Trump were a committed, albeit small, bunch. Time and again, their argument mostly came down to one issue: Israel. For them it was simple: They believed that a President Donald Trump would be far better for Israel than a President Hillary Clinton.

Given Trump’s thin Middle East policy record, these voters were forced to make their assessment based on what he and his surrogates promised on the campaign trail. The claim was that Trump, the Republican, would be the president who understood Israel, who would stand by the Jewish state, who wouldn’t allow any “daylight” between the two nations. He would be unlike the outgoing president who these voters always found to be anti-Israel. And Trump would be better than the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Clinton, who at best — in their view — couldn’t be trusted on Israel, despite her staunchly pro-Israel record.

Trump would be Israel’s best friend ever, they promised.

Trump’s first 100 days in office provide an opportunity for his supporters to review his campaign rhetoric and truly assess how he’s done. For now, let’s stick to three of his promises during the campaign: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ripping up the Iran deal and ensuring no “daylight” between the United States and Israel.

So far, the results haven’t come close to matching the rhetoric.

{mosads}Earlier today, Israeli officials said they believe Trump, like his predecessors, will sign a waiver delaying implementation of U.S. law that would require the embassy to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a far cry from what some Republicans thought would be among his first moves in Middle East policy. One Republican senator even had said that “Trump at one point was ‘ready to move the embassy at 12:01 on January 20th. Maybe even 12 and thirty seconds,” and that relocating the embassy “was going to be their first move.” 


That clearly hasn’t happened yet, and it remains unclear if it will.

On the Iran deal, Trump said during the campaign that his “number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Yet, in what is only one of his most recent in a flurry of foreign policy flip-flops, earlier this month the Trump administration refused to kill the international agreement and notified Congress that “Iran is complying with the landmark nuclear deal … and has extended sanctions relief given to Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.”

Trump also doesn’t seem to understand — or maybe even care — what no “daylight” really means. Through the first 100 days of his presidency, he has surprised Israel with statements on settlements — ones that were in line with previous U.S. Republican and Democratic administrations but which weren’t true to his hawkish campaign promises. 

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Trump’s White House for the first time, the president publicly surprised Netanyahu by demanding that he “hold back on settlements,” and chided him by saying, “Both sides will have to make compromises — you know that, right.” These remarks were said to PM Netanyahu’s face, in front of a significant audience of international reporters, televised for all to see.

His public demands of PM Netanyahu weren’t an exception. Trump also said, “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.” And earlier, Trump had said that settlements “don’t help the process … and every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left” for peace negotiations.

While I don’t find it surprising that Trump hasn’t lived up to his promises to his pro-Israel supporters, I await the outrage from those who voted for Trump solely based on the Middle East policy he promised. 

Trump’s record on Israel has been mixed at best, and if one is to judge him by his promises to his supporters in the pro-Israel community, his first 100 days have been a failure. 

For numerous reasons, I personally think that Donald Trump has been a bad president so far, both for the United States and for many of our most important allies, including Israel. But I’ve never been a Trump supporter.

However, for those who sacrificed their domestic policy preferences and supported an erratic, unethical and dishonest candidate for the highest office of the most powerful country on Earth, just because they believed Trump’s hawkish foreign policy promises, it’s time to look beyond his campaign rhetoric. Now is the time, instead, to look at his first 100 days and realize what he has actually done.


Aaron Keyak most recently served on the senior staff of Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.-10) and currently runs Bluelight Strategies, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Hillary Clinton Israel

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