Tel Aviv Diary: Will Trump Allow More Settlements?

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A boy sits near an Israeli flag atop the roof of a vehicle at the entrance to the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank on October 20. Marc Schulman writes that residents of interior Israel are gleeful the U.S. has elected a president will approve of more settlements being built in the West Bank and finally move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Ronen Zvulun/reuters

The United States and Israel are very much alike. The election of Donald Trump was met with shock and sorrow in New York and San Francisco while being hailed as a great moment in much of Midwest and the South.

In the same way, the disappointment and surprise in Israel's Tel Aviv are palpable, while in much of the rest of the country the joy is apparent.

The reactions in Israel could have been anticipated from the pre-election surveys. Supporters of the left-of-center Zionist Union party (clustered in the Tel Aviv area) supported Hillary Clinton by overwhelming majorities, while supporters of the right-of-center Likud and HaBayit HaYehudi parties supported Trump.

Nothing better illustrated that geographical/ideological divide than when a friend showed me his WhatsApp feed, with comments from his relatives (who are right-of-center voters, many of whom live in the West Bank) and the comments from his partner, whose relatives live in Tel Aviv and the surrounding areas.

His feed was full of happy people congratulating themselves over Clinton's loss—i.e., there would be no continuation of the "evil" Obama administration (many of them consider Barack Obama a hater of Israel.) But the Tel Aviv feed was full of people utterly shocked that the American people could elect someone like Trump.

A woman I talked to about the election outcome could not hold back her tears when talking about what it meant for women.

Denizens of Tel Aviv are worried about what a Trump presidency could bring, while the residents of interior Israel are gleeful there will be a U.S. president who will approve of more settlements being built in the West Bank and finally move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

These reactions were mirrored in the actions of "official" Israel. Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, head of HaBayit HaYehudi, hailed the election of Trump, saying this will finally "put to an end the idea of a Palestinian state."

To strengthen the settlement of the West Bank, the Knesset Lobbies met Wednesday to discuss the opportunities a Trump presidency presents to the settlement movement. The ultra-religious used the announcement of Trump's triumph to attack rival streams of Judaism. Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri thanked God for Trump's victory, saying it was a mortal blow to the Reform movement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to President-elect Trump Wednesday night and received an invitation to visit the White House as soon as it can be arranged.

For those in Israel who saw the Obama administration as the last hope to put the brakes on what they believe is a dangerous settlement policy by the current government, the election of Trump is considered a disaster—for the exact same reasons that right-wing adherents are gleeful ab9ut the prospect of a Trump administration.

The statement made Thursday morning by Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt that Trump "does not view the settlements as an obstacle to peace" certainly strengthened that view.

Other observers voiced a couple of additional concerns when looking ahead to the Trump presidency. First, how would an administration with little or no experience handle the complex affairs of the Middle East? Second, there is concern that the isolationist tone sounded by Trump during the campaign might not be in Israel's interests.

Marc Schulman is the editor of Historycentral.com.