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Washington Wrap: Dazzling and Dauntless in Davos

Omri Nahmias

Trump the tycoon surprises Davos Man

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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J ust four months ago, President Trump arrived at the annual UN General Assembly for his inaugural address to the world body. What the world witnessed was unedited Trump — bold and brash. He expressed a lack of faith in the institution’s necessity and influence, and in a not-so-veiled threat, recalled that the US foots the bill for about 22% of the UN’s colossal budget.

Not so Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week. Rubbing shoulders with financiers, banking magnates, and business tycoons, Trump was very clearly in his element. His speech was attended by a standing-room-only crowd, and hundreds more came forward to shake his hand and pose for a photo.

At Davos, Trump steered clear of geopolitical issues, and stuck to what he knows best: business and economics. Trump, who built his campaign on a populist economic message — including promises to annul trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and NAFTA — worked hard to gain the trust of his audience of global elites. He explained that “America First” doesn’t mean “America Only,” and that the United States indeed shares common interests with many other countries.

Declaring that the world was witnessing the resurgence of a “strong and prosperous America,” Trump listed his economic achievements, including tax reform and the steep rise in the stock market. He declared that America was “open for business” in his well-crafted and articulate speech, in which he never strayed from his teleprompter. The only time the president elicited some heckling (not much, but still) was during an interview with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, when he scolded the press for publishing negative coverage and fake news. This was just one more proof, for whoever needed it, that when the president stays focused and advances his agenda (and does not spend time on Twitter storms), he can be persuasive and impressive.

Trump also met Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at Davos, where he described his frustration with the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen’s refusal to return to the negotiating table, and the Palestinian leader’s boycott of Vice President Mike Pence. Now that it’s clear that the “ultimate deal” won’t be possible in the near future, we’re left with prognosticating the consequences of a funding cutback to the Palestinian Authority. Voices from Israel’s defense establishment have expressed concern that such a cut could bring Gaza to collapse. It won’t be long before Trump will have to decide what’s more important — teaching the Palestinians a lesson or keeping Gaza from spinning out of control. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 696)

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