Trump damages first trip with refusal to make NATO guarantee: Analysis


USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer speaks to The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale

He did not mention his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He declared the Palestinians “ready to reach for peace,” a conclusion rejected by much of the Israeli government. He linked the conflict to broader problems in the region, an analysis that irks conservative Israelis.

Netanyahu was visibly elated to be dealing with someone other than Barack Obama — more relaxed, Miller said, than he had ever been in the presence of a president.

But there were hints that the happy vibes would not last.

“I think the Israelis were very happy with Trump’s visit. They were very happy with his speech, but, if you listened carefully to what he said, there are a lot of things I think the Israeli government is going to be very nervous about,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

The Sunni side is up: Trump made it clear that he will not play middle-of-the-road mediator on the region’s other defining battle: the power struggle between Saudi Arabia, run by a Sunni Muslim regime, and Iran, run by a Shiite Muslim regime.

The U.S. is now firmly aligned with the Sunnis.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia to a gathering of Sunni-nation leaders, Trump blasted Iran — it did this the day after Iran held a presidential election, which Saudi Arabia has never done — while heaping praise on the Saudi king and avoiding criticism of the other equally repressive men who sat before him.

The world’s Muslim population is 90 per cent Sunni, and there are good arguments in favour of a pivot toward Riyadh and its friends.

But “the president’s speech overdid it,” Miller said.

“We cannot overdo it.”

He just can’t control himself: Trump earned some cautious early praise for displaying something that resembled discipline. Dodging almost any interaction with the media — in a break from trip precedent — Trump jettisoned his usual improvisation in favour of prepared texts obviously written by other people.

But he made outlandish errors whenever he was allowed to speak in his own words.

In a ridiculous goof in Israel, he accidentally confirmed that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence he divulged to Russian officials. In a meeting with European leaders, he called Germans “bad,” possibly in the context of trade, but still creating an embarrassing headline in Der Spiegel. In his speech at NATO headquarters, he ad-libbed a mocking jibe about the cost of that very building.

Sure, he managed to prevent himself from rage-tweeting. But there is no stopping the man from falling on his face over any extended period.

Trump snuck in a modified version, unscripted. But in his prepared text, he rejected the very premise of the phrase — saying that terrorists are “barbaric criminals” who “falsely” invoke the name of God, not true Islamic believers.

Nobody believes Trump has come to like Muslims; while he was away, he issued an insulting terrorism-centric Ramadan statement. But this was a sign that cooler administration heads, such as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, might prevail over the Islamophobic nationalists.

“With expectations being so low, we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that he didn’t insult 1.7 billion people (while) in Saudi Arabia,” Munayyer said.

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