US President Donald Trump escorts Benjamin Netanyahu into the White House during a visit by the Israeli prime minister to Washington in February 2017. Photo: Reuters

At some point between the evening of November 3 and days or even weeks after, Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be declared president-elect of the United States.  

This may come after an extended period of uncertainty, charges, counter-charges, lawsuits, demonstrations, and/or rioting. One or more states may be awarded to Trump or Biden by the Supreme Court, as was done in the election between George W Bush and Albert Gore in 2004. In fact, unless the election is a landslide, such a period of post-election uncertainty is very likely.  

Should that be the case, the person anointed by the Electoral College in December and inaugurated on January 20, 2021, will begin his presidency in a position of public weakness not seen since Andrew Johnson succeeded a murdered Abraham Lincoln as president in 1865.  

In 2000, candidate Gore graciously conceded defeat after the US Supreme Court overruled a decision by the Florida Supreme Court, awarding the state’s electoral votes to Gore. Any such gesture on the part of either Trump or Biden this year is most unlikely. 

In fact, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has urged Biden not to recognize a Trump victory, and Trump himself has made a number of statements indicating that he would be unlikely to concede.

None of this, unless there is a landslide victory of one candidate or the other, is good news for Israel, especially embroiled as it is itself in unprecedented social unrest and political instability.  

With a fairly high degree of confidence, we can forecast the following:

  1.  The sky will not fall in either case.
  2. If Trump is inaugurated, his administration will be much weaker than in his first term, among other reasons because it is very likely that the Democrats will retain control of the House and take control of the Senate. As a result, although there is no reason to believe that he will be any less pro-Israeli in his policies, his ability to execute them will be severely limited.
  3. If Biden is elected, depending on how much he feels he must concede to the far left of his party in appointments and policy decisions, the US will be less supportive of Israel, which is not to say that it will be anti-Israel.
  4. If Biden is elected, there will be an attempt to come to an accommodation with Iran, which may result in bad news for both Israel and its new Gulf Arab friends.

As a result of all this, Israel will have to balance maintaining its strong alliance with the US, while adopting policies and strategies of greater independence. It must demonstrate to its allies in the new anti-Iran Israel/Sunni coalition, that it is capable of assisting them to defend themselves just as well as during the first Trump administration.

Above all, Israel absolutely must emerge from its present untenable political situation with a strong, unified government, capable of making the decisions and taking the measures necessary, both for minimizing the negative effects of the US election, and for maximizing the opportunities opened to it in the Gulf region, and eventually elsewhere.

Norman A Bailey is the author of numerous books and articles and recipient of several honorary degrees, medals and awards and two orders of knighthood. He also teaches economic statecraft at The Institute of World Politics and has experience on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and in business, consulting and finance. He is professor emeritus in the National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and a columnist for Globes, the Israeli business and financial newspaper.

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