By Jack Wisniewski
Aaron David Miller, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. State Department as a former advisor for Arab-Israeli relations, spoke to over 100 students about the future of the U.S.-Israeli relationship with the Trump administration in the McKeldin Library Special Events Room Thursday night.
“I am going to talk for 45 minutes and accomplish something that is probably not possible,” Miller said. “That is, to summarize the new administration’s views on foreign policy, particularly in the middle east, the U.S.-Israel relationship and the pursuit of Israeli and Palestinian peace.”
Terps for Israel, a student-run organization that seeks to educate students about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, organized the lecture to give people a non-partisan view, said the club’s political chair, Jenn Miller.
“We’re not for or against the new administration,” said Jenn, a sophomore government and politics major. “It’s an expert talking about what may happen during the Trump presidency and what his relationship is with the state of Israel.”
Miller began by providing background of the U.S.’ advantageous outside perspective of international relations.
“We have non-predatory neighbors to our north and south and ‘liquid assets’ to our east and west,” Miller said. “We are free of the two forces that drive every other nation with which we deal — history, which is usually dark, and geography, which is usually threatening.”
Next, Miller discussed Trump’s foreign policies, saying that they are not concrete.
“Mr. Trump has instincts, proclivities and inclinations driven largely by his personality, philosophy and campaign commitments,” Miller said.
Miller broke down Trump’s agenda into elements including measuring allies with a fee-for-service analysis, avoiding nation building, avoiding intrusion into the internal affairs of other countries, especially those with humanitarian atrocities and providing a safer space for Vladimir Putin (compared to previous administrations).
“What you’re left with is a risk-averse muscular American nationalism that is pursued very selectively,” Miller said.
Miller supported his analysis by citing that Trump is the first president since 1979 to accept a phone call from the president of Taiwan, yet he still affirms that Taiwan and China are one country.
“Trump’s transition from campaigning to governing has left him ambivalent,” Miller said.
Shifting to the international goals of the U.S., Miller said that this nation primarily seeks to protect the homeland, to become energy independent and to prevent any single country from becoming a dominant regional power that can threaten American interests, particularly with a nuclear weapon.
“But what about America’s commitment to security and well-being in the state of Israel?” Miller said. “It’s become so ingrained into the political psychology and foreign policy of successive American administrations that it’s something I don’t worry about.”
Miller tied his confidence in the U.S.’ continued support of Israel into how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be solved by proposing a two-state solution.
“It is the least worst option, and the only one that would lead to disentangling the driving dynamic that now exists between Israelis and Palestinians,” Miller said.
Miller said the requirements for a possible two-state solution are not present now, however. These requirements include determined leaders mastered in their political ideology on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to end the conflict, a unified Palestinian agenda and effective American meditation.
Aaron Dane, a sophomore government and politics major, said his recent Birthright trip over the winter drew him to the lecture.
“I gained a lot of perspective from just being in the country,” Dane said. “I think what’s happening with the current administration is leaving a lot of uncertainty regarding our foreign policy.”
Nophar Yarden, a sophomore public health science major who lived in Israel for seven years, said she felt the administration will not have much of an effect on Arab-Israel relations.
“There isn’t going to be significant change in these four years, just as there hasn’t been any significant change in the past eight years,” Yarden said. “Trump is a strong figure, but this issue goes way back and there is only so much we can do about it.”
At the end of the lecture, Miller highlighted the philosophy of former President John F. Kennedy — “idealism without illusion.”
“I would find it fantastical if our current president would refer to himself this way,” Miller said. “It means looking at the world the way it is so that you have a chance of actually trying to change it.”