At the farewell press conference on his eve of his departure from the White House, Barack Obama offered a range of advice and recommendations for his successor, Donald Trump. He concentrated on foreign policy, with the Middle East in particular. Though he put forth his best efforts to advise the next team during the transition, will Obama’s advice fall on the deaf ears of Trump and his administration?
Amid the expectations, the world waits to see how Trump will begin his new reign, given that the positions and policies he’s advocated have sparked confusion among his friends and enemies. The world wonders whether these positions will change decades-long alliances, such as the European Union and NATO, or how international relations will change in the case of Russia, China, Iran and our regional issues. What’s striking is how Obama explained his antagonistic relationship with Russia. He explained that it is in the best interests of Washington and the world to establish a constructive relationship with Russia, as he recalled how the beginning of his term saw a reset between the two countries. However, the international crisis and the return of Cold War antagonism increased the relationship’s complexity. Nevertheless, Obama hoped that Trump would succeed in his goal of reducing nuclear arsenals in exchange for sanctions relief.
However, the most important issue for us is the Obama administration’s final stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue. Obama stressed that the conflict cannot be settled without the establishment of a full Palestinian state and said that the current situation is detrimental to the security of the United States. Justifying his non-use of the veto against the Security Council’s resolution, he claimed Washington had resorted to this “in order to provide a platform for the agreement.” He wanted to be clear that this would send a clear message that “this settlement may be in the process of being lost.” He also considered how the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem might blow up the situation in the region and hurt the chances of a two-state solution.
These are some mandates Obama had to question. But where was this speech during the past eight years and why leave his responsibilities to his successor? It is clear Trump is not interested in Obama’s advice, and he has responded that he will meet his own commitments, particularly the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem. So did Obama want to cement his position in history or will U.S. policy always be in perpetual conflict? Let’s wait to see how Trump will manage.