No US election has ever been as significant as this one. Not so much for the Middle East—where we can expect, if Joe Biden wins, a relative continuity of the American position engaged since the Obama years in a process of withdrawal from the region—but rather for Americans, and even more for Europeans. This is what Dominique Moïsi told us during our last Zoom meeting, “Towards a New Middle East”, broadcasted last October 20th, that you will find on our website (in French, without translation).
Aside from the personality of both candidates, between Trump’s outrageous and inconsistent behaviour, and Biden, his antithesis, appearing like a reassuring and responsible grandfather, two opposing concepts of America face each other.
Trump’s victory would be a blank signature for carrying on with the undoing of Obama’s legacy, which he started 4 years ago. First of all, it would be devastating for Americans. We can imagine the consequences for the spread of the epidemic if Trump had succeeded to implement the pledge he made during his first election campaign to suppress the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) millions of Americans benefit from. How many of them would have been deprived of a social coverage and would have been unable to get treatment ?
But Trump’s victory would also be disastrous for the rest of the world. It would be, for populist and neo-fascist parties, in the countries they rule, an incitement to pursue their disastrous policies for the planet, like that of Bolsonaro’s in Amazonia, or to keep attacking the safeguards protecting so far the foundations of liberal democracy. Within the European Union, which tries hard to build itself and to exist, that victory would provide credibility to extreme right candidacies committed to the undoing of the European project, from Marine Le Pen in France to Matteo Salvini in Italy.
In Israel, Trump’s victory would help Netanyahu, who is being bullied by an unprecedented protest movement demanding his resignation. Never before him had an Israeli Prime Minister interfered in American policies, as did Netanyahu during Obama’s second term, when he had stood up for Republicans, breaking with his predecessors’ tradition of maintaining a bipartisan position. That victory would encourage him to re-open the project, frozen for the time being, to annex an important part of the West Bank, putting a definitive end to the Two State Solution.
On the international scene, the assessment of Trump’s four years in the White House is disastrous as well. Numerous abandons have contributed to the slow disappearance of the United States from the international stage: withdrawal from the Paris agreement on the climate; withdrawal from UNESCO; withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal, which might incite even more Iran, weakened by US sanctions and isolated, to be tempted to get nuclear weapons; chaotic withdrawal from Syria—betraying at the same time their Kurdish ally against ISIS—, which left Putin reigning as master of the region; recognition of King-Jong-Un’s regime in North Corea, without the least concession on his part; weakening of NATO, described as “obsolete” by Trump who has a mercantilistic approach of the transatlantic security relationship, and thus compromises all the acquis having ensured peace and stability in Europe since 1945; recasting of the TTIP agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), calling into question the result of years of negotiations in order to define relationships of free trade between the United States and the European Union… And that list is far from being exhaustive ! Since in geopolitics, like in physics, nature abhors a vacuum, that American withdrawal leads, in the absence of Europe, to open the door to China, and to a lesser extent, to Russia, which will change them into the new major actors of the overall balance in the world.
The only diplomatic success Trump may claim is the signature, last September 15th in Washington, of the two peace ¬—normalization, rather—agreements between Israel and the Arab Emirates on one hand, and between Israel and the Bahrein kingdom on the other hand, agreements that will be quite soon followed by another one with Sudan. A few weeks before the election, Trump pulled out all the pressures and promises in ordre to convince those Arab States to normalize their relationships with Israel. Presented as a big success by Netanyahu, these agreements are a culmination of a policy of the current American administration in strong support of the Israeli right. Coming after the withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal, after the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, and the recognition of the annexation of the Golan, those agreements have once and for all persuaded the majority of the Jewish Israeli population that Trump was its best ally and the best of both candidates. That idea is not only false but dangerous for Israel.
Since Truman, all American presidents stood with Israel. Even Obama, vilified by Netanyahu, strengthened the military supremacy of Israel by raising the American military assistance up to 38 billions dollars from 2018 till 2038, while not hiding his criticisms concerning the policy towards the Palestinians which compromises the future of the country. Levy Eshkol, former Labour Prime Minister, said that “When America sneezes, Israel has the flu.” Trump’s America, weakened on the international scene, cannot guarantee Israel the security and the support it will always need, and the leaders of tomorrow’s world, from China to India, countries with which Israel has been developing a cooperation in many fields, won’t be able to replace it.
Israel must not err in the choice of its allies. It will always need to rely on a stable ally like the United States, a country with which it shares common values of democracy and a commitment to human rights, rather than to rely on totalitarian regimes. American Jews do not make that mistake. Most of them (70% according to the latest polls) continue to vote for the Democratic Party. And if today’s Israeli leaders continue to privilege the American right and the Christian Evangelists, in spite of the antisemitism of some of them, instead of giving the preference to American Jewish communities more sensitive to the question of human right and to the situation in the Palestinian territories, they might alienate their backing. And this is probably one of the biggest dangers for the future of Israel and of the Jewish people.