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Trump, Yertle the Turtle (CC Yertle the Turtle Publisher/cover artist)

Does U.S. President Donald Trump perceive himself to be a first and only master of humankind; a Homo Deus, to pinch the title of Prof. Yuval Harari's intriguing book? Never mind that the preponderance of serious scientists in the world agree that there is an urgent need to also 'repeal and replace' the Paris accord on the emission of dangerous gases into the atmosphere - our very future is at stake. But Trump has signaled that America's coal miners come first. However, just as Trump struck out on rejecting Obamacare, he probably will also fail again. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who opposed withdrawing from the Paris accord, was quick to play down the impact:

       “I think it's important everyone recognizes the U.S. has a terrific record of reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions. I don't think we are going to change our ongoing efforts to reduce these emissions in the future either. So, hopefully people can keep it in perspective.”

If anyone else had dared defy him in such a manner, Trump would have shouted at him: 'You're fired!' And that is just the point; Trump must realize he cannot run America as if he's a tycoon running Trump Towers or whatever. The drop in emissions is due mainly to natural gas and renewable energy replacing coal-fired power plants. Until now, the U.S. has been steadily reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. But now Trump has not only shocked the world but the American public as well. In fact, many individual states and large cities plan on continuing the policy to keep cutting greenhouse gas emissions no matter what the President does in Washington. 'The White House is out of touch with the people unless you're a coal miner', sound familiar? In fact, the governors of three states, New York, California, and Washington have blasted Trump's decision, vowing to set up a council of governors to continue cutting gas emissions. Several mayors have also hauled Trump over the coals. The most notable was Bill Peduto of Pittsburg, because Trump declared:

       'I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris!'

An angry Mayor Peduto responded:

       'I am shocked! I was even in Paris (for the initial signing) and was one of the 500 mayors from around the world!'

But in most cases, after his initial shock treatment for both friend and foe, Trump then steps back and adopts a more statesmanlike approach.

So, President Trump has now stirred up another hornet's nest in America. But when reflecting on Trump's past behavior, it may not be as bad as it looks. Trump revels in saying shocking things. Maybe it's a carry-over from his TV days of yelling at people 'You're fired!' And just look at his record since he's entered the White House. His battle cry to 'repeal and replace' Obamacare was blocked by Congress. Unlike his previous career of a tycoon in private business, there are checks and balances in Congress. The courts also rejected his plans to ban all Muslims from entering America, his fiscal plans are also being blocked, and he is now up to his neck with a special investigator into possible clandestine contacts with Putin during the election campaign. But many of Trump's other startling steps have also come to naught: the erection of a big border wall that Mexico would pay for, the irrelevance of NATO, and his spat with German Chancellor Angela Merkel join the list. But in most cases, after his initial shock treatment for both friend and foe, Trump then steps back and adopts a more statesmanlike approach. Note his recent visit to the Middle East where Trump rebuilt the bridges with the Sunni Arab world that were torched by Obama in favor of Iran.

Far from being Homo Deus, maybe Donald Trump should consider those memorable lines from Dr. Seuss as spoken by Yertle the Turtle before his big fall:

   “I'm Yertle the Turtle!

   Oh, Marvelous Me!

   For I am the ruler

   Of all that I see!”

'To build or not to build Israeli homes in West Bank?'

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu can commiserate with Trump on those annoying investigators - Bibi's are more about lavish supplies of cigars and champagne rather than possibly colluding with Russia on fixing the presidential election. Quite naturally, Bibi wants to remain on the good side of Trump - this is not the time to rile the President who must cope with a former FBI director after just firing the former FBI chief.

But Bibi is facing a hard choice which he must now resolve.

But Bibi is facing a hard choice which he must now resolve. The Planning Commission for building in the West Bank is due to convene this week. On its agenda, whether to give the administrative green light to construct 2,100 new housing units in the West Bank. Fifteen-hundred are slated to go up inside settlement blocs that are anticipated to being allocated to Israel in any future peace agreement. The other six hundred would be built outside of these settlement blocs.

When Trump was elected, the Right wing in Israel believed he would acquiesce in Israeli settlement building. However, the Right was bitterly disappointed when Trump warned Bibi to 'hold off' on construction. Moreover, President Trump has just signed the document delaying the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Something candidate Trump promised fervently to do during the presidential campaign. The Far Right is leading the Jewish Home coalition partner in pressuring Bibi to proceed with West Bank building. However, Bibi has warned:

       'President Trump has not given Israel a blank check!'

Building on the West Bank at this time could not only anger Trump but also harm Israel's long-term strategic interest.

This should have been clear to one and all, but the Far Right, including some in Bibi' own Likud party, believe Israel should go ahead with the settlement building even in the face of Trump's opposition. They argue that the Palestinians never have, don't now, and never will agree to recognize and live at peace with the Jewish state. During his recent visit, Trump declared there is now 'a rare opportunity’ to move forward to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Moreover, the Sunni Arab world favors such a move and would also be prepared to make peace with Israel as have Egypt and Jordan. No less important, this would enable the forming of a broad strategic alliance to confront Shiite Iran and its drive to eventually acquire nuclear weapons and dominate the entire region. Obviously, Israel is interested keenly in promoting such a step. So, building on the West Bank at this time could not only anger Trump but also harm Israel's long-term strategic interest.

Is there more than meets the eye? In the Palestinian camp, President Mahmoud Abbas says he is ready now to negotiate with Bibi, but he is facing fierce opposition from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Iran has now resumed its financial aid to Hamas which will be cut immediately if Hamas agrees to Abbas sitting down at the table with Bibi). On the other hand, if Bibi does not cancel the meeting of the Planning Commission and it decides to implement the settlement building, Abbas will hit the roof and probably so will Trump. Unless of course, this is a ploy for Trump to step in and be seen to pressure Bibi into freezing any new settlement building for the duration of the Palestinian negotiations. This would let Bibi off the hook with the Right wing in Israel. Actually, there is a precedent: none other than Prime Minister (Likud) Menachem Begin froze settlement building in Judea & Samaria during the peace negotiations with President Anwar Sadat so as not to embarrass the Egyptian leader.


David Essing

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