TLR 175: Stumped about Trump, pals with Putin
March 31, 2016
This issue turns out to be about geo-politics. It actually covered a lot more ground, but I decided to divide it into two and make each section into a self-contained issue. Consequently, this issue is comprised only of Section A: Regional Developments, with another issue — relating to Section C: Macro-economics — to follow almost immediately.
The topic of ‘Leviathan’, especially the High Court of Justice’s ruling this week and its implications, needs an issue all to itself — and that is also in the pipeline. But as I will have the opportunity of talking to many of you in London next week, the ‘hot news’ aspect will be addressed. The more difficult analytical problem with regard to the natural gas imbroglio is to remain focused on the larger picture, which is what I for that that upcoming newsletter. Let me just say now, as a spoiler, that my conclusion is that Leviathan is dead under the water for at least the next five years and everything being said and done now by the Israeli government and especially the companies, is posturing to improve their positions in the context of an upcoming legal battle over blame and responsibility.
Yet as extraordinary as the endless natural gas saga is, it pales by comparison with political developments in the democratic world. From an Israeli viewpoint, the European migrant crisis, the Brexit debate and the upheavals underway in French, German and Spanish politics are all important, but the American presidential election — and American politics generally — is critical. For that reason, the discussion of ‘Regional Developments’ is focused primarily on Washington and on Moscow, despite the apparent geographical incongruity, with a specifically regional round-up relegated to last — because what really matters is who calls the shots in the region.
Over the course of the Obama presidency, the US has chosen to lower its Middle Eastern profile and involvement, whilst Russia has responded by considerably enhancing its presence and its clout — diplomatic and military, although not economic. Everyone in the region, from countries to terrorist entities, has been forced to scramble to adjust to this dramatic change.
But the changes in America’s global position and policy may be a work in progress, especially if Donald Trump were to win the presidency. Even if he does not, he and Bernie Sanders — and the powerful socio-political forces they represent — have irreversibly altered American politics and political discourse. Israel has to try and understand what this all means for its multi-faceted relationship with the US and then decide how to respond.
One response, dictated by realpolitik, is to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the new regional power-broker, namely Vladimir Putin. That looks to be one of the main achievements of Messrs. Netanyahu and Ya’alon and it is all the more impressive when seen against the background of the ongoing upheaval within the region itself and the very different stances Israel is taking vis-à-vis each of its neighbours — as reviewed in the last section of this issue.
A: Regional Developments
a) Trump, Trumpism and the Jews
b) My pal Putin
c) Long live the status quo