WIsraeli and Persian Gulf state leaders shake hands with President Donald Trump today at the White House South Lawn, the moment will telegraph the image of a pacifist American leader just like his request for re-election, just seven weeks away, she needs
US-mediated agreements normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain. In non-diplo words: two Arab states are saying that Israel has a right to exist, and this does not happen every day. For years, most Gulf states have held the line with the Palestinians in the hope of securing a sovereign, stable Palestinian nation. Tani, ka planet for direct flights from both countries to Tel Aviv – and the fact that they will be allowed to use Saudi airspace to do so only adds to the solemnity.
American policy helped make it happen. It is a clear gift of thanks to Trump from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has enjoyed much warmer relations with this President than with his predecessor. It is a nod from two of the more liberal Gulf states that share Trump’s antagonism to Iran. And this is a tacit sign of approval from the political clients of those states in Saudi Arabia who understand the need for concessions in the West as the Saudi heir’s lost some of his splendor in Washington after being linked to the brutal murder of a Washington Post columnist. After all there are still political costs to shredding a critic within a consulate.
As a package, the White House is putting these historic deals as products of Trump’s true selves: an equal deal, not a messy force in international affairs. His campaign is already advertising that he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize – wrong spelling “Noble” along the way – which his trusted friends in the conservative media are treating as a real possibility, despite the fact that Trump is considered low in many parts of the world.
The text of the agreements is not expected to be released until the photopopulation is revealed. White House senior adviser (and Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner is calling it “this historic Middle East peace deal.” The hands of foreign policy will rightly discuss this labeling, stressing that it is not so of The Middle East peace plan has been sought after for decades between Israelis and Palestinians. Talks between Israelis and Palestinians remain at a difficult pause as Trump and his envoys seem to have sided with the Israelis at every possible moment; the departure of the Gulf states from their Arab neighbors will do little to create goodwill.
Others will note that this will certainly ignite tensions with Iran, whose leaders are plotting to assassinate a US diplomat in retaliation for Washington’s assassination of a senior Iranian general, according to Politico’s reporting about American intelligence. Trump turned a threat into a late night tweet which may have confirmed the report: “Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will face an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times larger in size!”
You can not say it is not an extraordinary sight – and one that can calm the nerves about Trump’s ability for a job that has proven far more complex at the age of COVID-19. The pandemic has ruined Trump’s favorite time for big rallies, but he is still calling crowds to events like this one today in South Lawn that is expected to attract hundreds. If it’s something like the Trump quasi-convention in the same space two weeks ago, don’t ask for too many masks or too many social distances.
However, there is a fatal flaw with this telegenic range: Peace agreements are not what motivate voters. Polls consistently show foreign policy a issues but no of issues. Pew’s survey in late July and early August found the economy, health care, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus outbreak, and violent crime transcending foreign policy. Republicans usually have an edge on foreign policy issues, but Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a former vice president and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is connected with Trump on that question.
And the Trump base from four years ago thinks diplomacy is for suckers; Pew polls of Trump supporters in August and September 2016 found that only 19% of them supported the statement that diplomacy is the best way to peace, compared to 55% of all voters and 76% of Hillary Clinton supporters who said the same thing. He will not rebuild his winning coalition with those numbers.
To be sure, the security of Israel is a key factor for some voters, including the Evangelicals who are among the strongest advocates of Christianity for Israel and have infrequently shook at Trump. This move that adds further legitimacy to Israel’s very existence comes as the Jewish faith is heading to Rosh Hashanah at the end of this week and the High Holy Days that follow. It also comes as early voting is set to begin. But there is a good chance that a single-issue voter in Israel was planning to reward Trump in November.
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