While one might expect that a self-described “America First” foreign policy would be isolationist and, given the term’s history, hostile toward Jews, the lengthy strategy paper recently produced by the Trump administration is neither. Rather, writes Jonathan Tobin, if you “strip away the Trumpian braggadocio [that accompanied the document’s release], what you find are policy guidelines that are remarkably realistic in terms not only of the challenges facing the United States but those facing Israel as well.” He writes:
At the heart of the Trump doctrine are some contradictions. President Trump wants to be tough on Iran, but his crush on Vladimir Putin and Obama-like reluctance to confront Iran and Russia in Syria undermine his instinct to resist Tehran. He wants to promote American power and influence, but his pay-as-you-go version of alliances complicates Washington’s relations with its partners.
But President Trump has still produced a paper that has more common sense than some of the high-flown rhetoric that emanated from [the previous four administrations]. And the section on the Middle East is evidence of that. . . .
Among the most memorable lines in the 68-page document is a specific denunciation of one of the [so-called foreign-policy] realists’ most sacred cows: the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region.” Trump rightly discards this myth. Instead, his doctrine points out that “threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.” Specifically rejecting both blind faith in “democratic transformation” and “disengagement,” Trump seeks instead to strike a cautious balance between the need to assert U.S. power and the realization that American can’t fix all of the world’s problems.
Instead of seeking to “save Israel from itself,” Trump’s doctrine acknowledges the problems with pressuring the Jewish state to make concessions to a Palestinian peace partner tainted by its subsidization of terror. His faith that an “outside-in” strategy in which the common interests of Israel and the Arab states like Saudi Arabia could lead to peace may underestimate the power of rejectionism among Palestinians and the Arab street. But it is still devoid of the magical thinking about democracy and strong-arming Israel to which Presidents Bush and Obama subscribed.