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TRUMP TO ERDOGAN: "SPEAK LOUDLY AND CARRY A HUGE STICK"

US President Trump making historic speech about Jerusalem being capital of Israel

What to make of it? The US Commander in Chief has just countermanded his previous order to withdraw the remaining two thousand troops from northeastern Syria within a month or so. This after previously informing Turkish dictator Erdogan in a casual telephone conversation. However, after consulting his top foreign policy advisor, John Bolton, Trump has put the kaibosh on Erdogan's plan to clobber the Kurds, maybe once and for all.

So just how does the most powerful leader in the world make his foreign policy decisions?

Such a rash decision would have given Turkey not only the green light to decimate the Kurds, but it would also signal to Iran and Russia that American was no longer a player in the Middle East...

Donald Trump is a former business tycoon who acts on his instincts that have made him a billionaire and president of the United States of America. He almost always has an unwavering belief in his brain waves and subsequent actions that have taken him where he is today, including his unprecedented shutdown of US government services in retaliation to the congressional roadblock imposed on his border fence along the Mexican border and his snap decision to first withdraw the remaining troops in Syria without knowing the ramifications or seeking the advice of his top officials. Such a rash decision would have given Turkey not only the green light to decimate the Kurds, but it would also signal to Iran and Russia that American was no longer a player in the Middle East - they could do whatever they pleased. Obviously, it was a shock to America's allies, Israel, Jordan, the Gulf States, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Question: during his telephone conversation with Erdogan, did Trump have even a foggy idea of the Kurdish issue or the Turkish genocide perpetrated on the Armenians during the WWI period? It's likelier that he did not. Proof of this is when he changed his mind after foreign policy adviser John Bolton filled in the blanks. To his credit, Trump changed his mind. Maybe the explanation for his first snap decision (on the phone with Erdogan) was that he liked the idea of getting some good media coverage about bringing the boys home after being tarred and feathered over the Mexican wall furor.

Back in Jerusalem, PM Netanyahu, apparently dismayed by Trump's first decision to evacuate the American troops, adopted a low profile by quietly suggesting to Trump that the American forces, who were not in any real danger, should be withdrawn gradually. For his part, Netanyahu understood early on that you don't mess with Trump. Remember their first meeting in the White House when the newly-elected President announced that he was launching a new Israeli-Palestinian Peace Initiative, and therefore, he advised Bibi to "hold off a bit on settlement building." Bibi got the message and has approved relatively minimal building in the West Bank; something that has roused the ire of the settlers and his hardline political allies, such as cabinet ministers Naftali Benet and Ayelet Shaked, who had quite the cabinet in the midst of the current Israeli election campaign.

President Putin chose to blame Israel for ultimate responsibility...

As for Syria, the Israeli airforce has continued its air strikes against the Iranian military buildup. However, these attacks have been halted since September when Syrian antiaircraft batteries mistakenly shot down a Russian transport killing all 15 crewmen. However, President Putin chose to blame Israel for ultimate responsibility because Israel's airstrikes had led to the Syrians launching missiles all over the sky, one of which shot down the Russian transport. This although no Israeli aircraft were flying in the vicinity at the time.

As for Russia, the Israeli security service, Shabak, has detected "an attempt by a foreign cyber organization to penetrate Israel's electoral system." The first obvious suspect is Russia. It is considered to have interfered with the last presidential election in the US as well as in several other countries. Moscow was quick to reject the allegation, charging it was untrue, as were the reports about Russian interference in other foreign elections. Without referring to Russia, Netanyahu declared that Israel has probably one of the best cyber services in the world and is capable of coping with any foreign intervention in its electoral process. Israel's upcoming election is slated for April 9th.

Benny Gantz, former IDF Chief of Staff and leader of new "Israel Resiliance" political party

The Prime Minister is up to his neck facing possible charges dealing with corruption. The Israeli police and the state prosecutor have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted. However, Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit has yet to determine his final say. Despite the corruption allegations, Netanyahu is still leading in the opinion polls - 41% of Israelis think that Bibi is the best candidate for Prime Minister. Meanwhile, newcomer Benny Gantz, a former IDF commander, is gaining with a surprising 39%. The incredible thing is that Gantz has absolutely no political experience aside from his role as IDF Chief of Staff, which goes a long way with Israeli voters.

Hence, he as a reputation as a straight shooter with a very confident and attractive persona. So far, to the amazement of one and all, Gantz refuses to say a single word on the burning issues such as war and peace with the Palestinians, the Iranian threat, or the economy. The media and rival politicians are clamoring for Gantz to take the wraps off his new party's platform, which he has refused to do up until now.

Many Israeli voters from the center and left are seeking a candidate to rival Netanyahu, and so far, by not announcing his platform, Gantz has aroused the interest of many potential voters.

The fact is that "there is a method in the madness." That is to say that Israeli elections are a hodgepodge of various parties - more than ten will be in the running. In Israeli politics, no single party, including Bibi's Likud, has ever won a majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Every Israeli government, going back to 1948, has been a coalition to gain the required 61-seat majority to form the next government. Many Israeli voters from the center and left are seeking a candidate to rival Netanyahu, and so far, by not announcing his platform, Gantz has aroused the interest of many potential voters. However, once he does state his position, primarily on the Palestinian question, he may deter voters whom today may think they might support him on election day. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is facing immense political heat over the corruption charges. So, it makes sense for Gantz to hold off as long as he possibly can and then cash in when the attorney general announces whether Netanyahu will or will not be indicted in a court of law.


Political Analyst David Essing


 

David Essing

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