One of the questions that arise after the election results were in, is whether the new president would harm U.S. support for Israel’s defense?
The answer comes in two parts: First, no one knows at all what Trump’s defense policies will be, and whatever they might turn out to be, it is unlikely that any president could do much to alter the alliance at this juncture.
If he should want to—and it’s not at all clear that he will want to—he might be able to interfere with the U.S.-Israel security arrangements. He will not be able to stop the flow of information, and he will not be able to interfere with bilateral defense operations.
For years, the military cooperation has been under the aegis of the Pentagon and the Israeli Defense Ministry, under the command of the chiefs on both sides. The cooperation has been carried on in a positive, friendly atmosphere, even during times of tension in the civilian echelons, and we can expect it to continue that way.
If, chas v’shalom, there should be a war alert, hundreds of American officers and soldiers will, according to pre-established protocols, board planes to Israel and within hours will be in a joint U.S.-Israeli base located somewhere in central Israel, where they will sit by computer screens connected to missile systems and other weapons arrays.
In addition, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services are thoroughly integrated, such that each has full access to the same information. They work together on monitoring events in the region, in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza. Trump will not be able to disrupt such a firmly established system of cooperation.
Regarding political matters, Trump is not expected to put a great deal of pressure on Israel for the sake of the Palestinians. He may float some new ideas, but he will not push Israel into making any one-sided concessions, and he understands that any solution to the conflict must come through direct talks.
Much will depend on whom Trump chooses for his secretary of defense, secretary of state and ambassador to Israel. It is doubtful that he will move the embassy to Yerushalayim.
It is possible that he will seek to reopen the Iran nuclear agreement, and that he will take a stronger hand against global terror, beginning with Islamic State. Trump is not a man who takes a hammer to things; he is a seasoned businessman who knows how to weigh gains and losses.
In dealing with the Russians, the Syrians, the Turks, the Egyptians and Libyans, he will not act precipitously, without listening to his advisors, and they will work quickly to moderate his reactions and rein in his impulses. Just think of the new Israeli defense minister and the metamorphosis he underwent upon entering office.
But it will take some time for him to engage all these issues. He does not come from the world of government or the military, and he is unfamiliar with the day-to-day workings in the White House. He will have plenty of domestic matters to deal with before he faces the challenges abroad.