More Words, Less Action

Political analyst Avigdor Eskin on Donald Trump’s first foreign trip.

President Trump’s first foreign trip brought him unchallenged triumph in the promotion of the U.S. defense industry’s interests. The $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia can help him adjust relations with the U.S. establishment, which is trying to push him out of the presidency with alarming constancy. Trump vainly mentioned “jobs, jobs, jobs” a couple times after his success in Riyadh. There is no doubt that this large-scale deal will help to preserve jobs in the U.S. defense industry.

We also saw that Donald Trump was flattered by this VIP treatment with oriental dances and swords. When the American president went to Israel, he stated in a patronizing tone that the Saudi monarch is a “very wise man” a couple times. Up until recently though, Trump was saying that the Saudis are the ones standing behind 9/11 and that they also made a serious investment in Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. Yet now we hear another melody with a different tone.

Israel reacted reservedly to this large-scale deal, but on the day after Trump’s visit to Jerusalem, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had already stated with displeasure that [this deal] “doesn’t sit with well” with him. And now just imagine what kind of dissatisfaction could arise from an identical deal, with Iran for example. Regardless of the fact that borders of Israel are next to Saudi territory at one point, Iran is almost a thousand kilometers away. Unwillingness to argue with Trump, for now, has outbalanced the fear that the strengthening of the Saudis, Wahhabis and Muslim Brotherhood will doom the whole region.

During his visit to Israel, Trump simply didn’t say anything: Not a word about a Palestinian state and not a word about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. General words about peace did not impress anyone; the Middle East is wrapped in flames in certain places that have turned into stains on the map. And who would believe that now is exactly the time when the Arab-Israeli conflict will become an example of “swords into plowshares?”

President Trump paid his obeisance to all three monotheistic religions during his foreign trip: He showed respect to Islam, he visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and a couple of days later he was welcomed by Pope Francis at the Vatican. After the meeting, which actually turned out to be quite brief, Trump said that he “won’t forget what [Pope Francis] said.” Some people immediately thought of the harsh criticism from Pope Francis against Trump during his election campaign on the question of building a wall on the border with Mexico, and not only about that. However, what President Trump had in mind was exactly what was said during this meeting.

The Independent called Trump’s reception in the Vatican “frosty.” But the U.S. media quoted Trump, who considered this meeting not just successful but “fantastic.” Nevertheless, no specific ideas or precise agreements were announced. General words about the importance of “world peace” did not answer the question of whether or not two leaders — one political and one spiritual — could smooth over the differences between them, which recently seemed to reach the point of harsh angry words. We did not learn anything about whether or not they had found common ground on the issues of migrants or, for example, environmental problems.

Speaking of peace: The $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia can hardly be received as a step toward peace. The aggressive efforts of Iran were condemned by the whole world and arms supplies to Iran were forbidden, yet aggressive actions by Saudi Arabia, of which even President Trump was talking about, are sinking into oblivion when Riyadh shows its readiness to pay. Although the actions of Saudi Arabia towards Syria, its encouragement of Wahhabism, the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood could all be reasons to classify it as part of the “axis of evil,” double standards often turn out to be more powerful than common sense.

Despite the fact that the formal part of Trump’s visits to Riyadh, Jerusalem and the Vatican went by flawlessly, we cannot seem to find any real political content in it, except the deal with the Saudis. Nevertheless, we see how Trump’s enemies and friends expect new words and new policies from him.

But should they?

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