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The Art of the Middle East Deal?

RAMALLAH – Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election has stunned the world, with many – particularly US allies – feeling more than a little concerned about what his leadership may bring. For desperate Palestinians, however, Trump’s impending presidency seems to offer a slight reason for hope.

Trump attracted the support of the enraged and frustrated, and Palestinians feel even angrier and more hopeless than the working-class white Americans who supported him. But the main reason for Palestinians’ hopeful response is the same as for US allies’ anxiety: Trump is a political outsider, with few ties to the United States’ foreign-policy tradition or the interest groups that have shaped it.

With so little political and ideological baggage, Trump is not bound to specific positions on most policy issues, whether domestic or foreign. This suggests that he could upend conventions that have often been damaging to Palestine, transforming the rules of the game. In his victory speech, he promised that his administration would “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone – all people and all other nations.”

A fair US foreign policy certainly sounds appealing, and not just to frustrated actors like Palestine. But, in a sense, foreign policy is fundamentally unfair, as national leaders must always put their country first – a reality that Trump also highlighted in his victory speech.