Arabs surprisingly pleased with Trump win
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Analysis

Arabs surprisingly pleased with Trump win

Many Arab states resent Clinton for her support of the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Then US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012 (AP/Egyptian Presidency)
Then US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012 (AP/Egyptian Presidency)

Reaction in parts of the Middle East on Wednesday to Donald Trump’s surprise election victory was perhaps as unexpected as the win itself.

In Egypt, the leadership, including President Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, had trouble hiding its satisfaction with Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

According to Egyptian media, Sissi was the first world leader to call and congratulate Trump. He wished Trump well and expressed the hope that his term would lead to a flourishing of American-Egyptian ties.

What Sissi did not say out loud, but was expressed for him by one of his confidants in the Egyptian parliament, Mustafa Bakri, was that the Trump victory is seen as “a knockout blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Republican president-elect Donald Trump, flanked by members of his family, speaks to supporters during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY)
Republican President-elect Donald Trump, flanked by members of his family, speaks to supporters during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 9, 2016. (AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

This satisfaction was echoed in other Arab countries — including the Gulf States, and even Saudi Arabia — where they have not forgotten or forgiven Clinton and US President Barack Obama for their support for the Arab Spring.

Arab leaders have never been able to understand the stance adopted by Clinton, when she was secretary of state, that supported 2012’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

The Egyptian media busied itself Wednesday publishing flattering quotes that Trump has made in the past about Sissi, and describing the “shock” in rival countries like Qatar, which support the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the papers reported at length on the $1 million donation from Qatar to the Clinton Foundation. The Qatari-based Al Arab, by contrast, described Trump’s victory as “an unprecedented political earthquake.”

In the so-called pro-Muslim Brotherhood countries Qatar and Turkey, indeed, reaction was muted, with both adopting a wait-and-see attitude to Trump’s future Middle East policy.

Iran, meanwhile, was certainly not panicking. Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, said that Trump’s election did not necessarily mean that Washington’s policies towards Iran would change, including on the nuclear deal that Trump has so bitterly criticized.

An Iranian woman walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 9, 2016. ( AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)
An Iranian woman walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 9, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

For the Palestinians, however, there was evident disappointment.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah would have preferred to see Clinton win and push Israel toward restarting peace negotiations where they left off. Still, their disappointment with Obama has also had an effect. For eight years they waited for a real development under him and it never came.

Now, the Palestinians believe there is even a smaller chance that Obama will initiate some kind of dramatic policy move or take up their case at the United Nations Security Council in the last two months of his term.

However, some Palestinian politicians do hold out hope that a Republican president could surprise. They privately note that some GOP presidents in the past — George H.W. Bush, for instance — have taken a tough line on Israel and the settlements. And they argue that Trump will not fulfill his campaign promise to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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