U.S. President Trump: A balance sheet

July 25, 2018 by Isi Leibler
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U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin served to increase the paranoia about him to an all-time high…writes Isi Leibler.

Isi Leibler at home in Jerusalem

He was accused of “failing America,” acting “shamefully” and “disgracefully,” and even committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Former CIA chief John Brennan went so far as to call his performance “treasonous.”

Trump certainly blundered when commenting on the similarity in behavior of the current Russian and American intelligence sources. This followed his outbursts at an earlier meeting with the Europeans in relation to NATO. Even Republican supporters rubbed their eyes in incredulity at some of his remarks to Putin. Yet, even following this barrage of criticism, Trump announced last week that he had invited Putin to Washington.

Nobody can deny that Trump behaves like a buffoon and has a penchant for vulgarity. He shoots from the hip, says what he thinks, often contradicts himself and incessantly posts juvenile tweets.

The facts are that he has made many errors and impulsively introduced new regulations with total disregard for the details, such as the restrictions on immigration, thus creating considerable chaos which could have been averted.

On the other hand, he has – by and large – neutralised the disastrous impact of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who, in his prime objective to achieve peace, discarded some of America’s long-standing allies, groveled to the Iranian terror state, and in the process diminished America’s global influence.

Trump started his presidency with a call for “America first” that enraged his opponents who linked it to pre-World War ll fascism.

A review of the facts will help evaluate his overall performance.

The economy

Trump has introduced a series of economic measures – decried by his opponents – but the outcome of which are significant positive indicators in the economy and a sharp upturn in the stock market.

Immigration

In his determination not to follow the disastrous example in Europe, he imposed strict limitations, refusing to permit the country to be flooded by Islamic migrants. Although introduced clumsily, Trump’s immigration policy will historically be recognised as a wise decision.

China

After demanding a more balanced trade relationship with China and warning against ongoing theft of American technology, he stunned the world by imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese government-subsidised goods that were undercutting U.S. products. He threatened to extend this to vehicles. The Chinese responded by imposing tariffs on American goods, accusing Trump of starting a trade war and breaching the terms of the World Trade Organisation. Time will tell, but many believe that Trump will be vindicated and that China will compromise on a fairer export policy and America’s disastrous negative trade balance will be reversed.

Europe and NATO

Trump shocked the Europeans and horrified their leaders by questioning the value of NATO and its members’ dependence on American largesse. He warned that the U.S would go it alone and would no longer pour U.S. taxpayers’ money into subsidising the Europeans unless they shouldered the burden of their defense, raising their military spending from 2% to 4% of gross domestic product. He noted that Germany, the most powerful European nation, currently spends a mere 1.25% of its GDP on defense.

This created an upheaval. But the bottom line is that they will deliver, and Trump will be vindicated.

Iran

Trump has clearly intensified the war against terror. He has broken with the Iranians and is in the process of imposing powerful sanctions, which could lead to the collapse of the regime.

North Korea

Trump personally initiated direct top-level negotiations with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in an attempt to persuade him to denuclearise. Although the outcome is far from assured, these negotiations are themselves an unprecedented achievement.

Russia

Putin’s Russian Federation is an authoritarian state but a far cry from the totalitarian Soviet Union.

Whether there is any truth in the allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections, few genuinely believe that such actions may have altered the outcome.

Despite their major differences, in particular in their attitudes toward Iran, both Putin and Trump pledged to cooperate and work jointly to combat terrorism.

Trump was bitterly castigated in the U.S. for adopting this approach with the Russians, but if he succeeds in easing tensions, avoiding a new Cold War and cooperating even to a limited degree, this too will be recognized as a significant positive achievement.

Israel

As far as most Israelis are concerned, Trump’s election has proved to be God’s gift to them.

Trump is the first American president to formally announce the alliance of the U.S. with Israel and assure the Israelis that the United States would back them if they were embroiled in conflict.

He brought an end to Obama’s biased policy of moral equivocation between Israel’s defensive measures with Palestinian terrorism and refused to maintain the façade that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a moderate man of peace. He also drastically cut back on U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

He has made it very clear that the U.S. would not tolerate the Palestinian diversion of millions of aid dollars annually to reward terrorists and provide pensions to their families.

The administration placed full blame on Hamas for the Gaza escalation of terror, accusing them of “pushing Israel to engage in increasingly significant acts of defense.”

Trump’s U.N. representative, Nikki Haley, aggressively defends Israel and condemns its biased critics. The U.S. also withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization dominated by tyrants and rogue states, which the Trump administration accused of hypocrisy and bias against Israel.

Despite howls of global protest and unlike his predecessors, Trump has fulfilled his electoral promise to move the U.S Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.

In another unprecedented turn of events, following their recent meeting, Trump and Putin issued an astonishing joint press statement in which they explicitly proclaimed their commitment to “work together to ensure the security of Israel.” Trump said, “I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.”

To sum up, Trump is clearly calling the shots and rearranging the existing global order.

From an Israeli viewpoint, Trump has – to date – been like manna from heaven. That does not mean that we endorse all his actions and we continue to squirm at his cruder outbursts.

But despite the great schism in American politics since his election, Trump has gone a long way toward reversing the damage inflicted by Obama. He is disliked by most global leaders, but he is feared and has demonstrated his ability to deal positively with many international issues that have, until now, been ignored. His supporters can only hope that despite his erratic temperament, he stays the course.

While the Democrats are likely to win seats in the upcoming congressional elections, there are strong chances that Trump will be re-elected in 2020, especially if the current radicalisation of the Democratic candidates is not reversed.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

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