Trump on Israel – so far, so good. One is even tempted to say so far, very good.
First of all, the atmosphere. What a change since the eight long years of the Obama administration when the relations between Washington and Israel were in the deep freeze. Who still remembers Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo telling an Arab audience that Israel was to stop all settlement activity. And the hullabaloo that accompanied the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Israel when it was “discovered” that plans for buildings in Jerusalem located beyond the 1949 armistice lines with Jordan had been approved, and the public dressing-down Israel received from Obama’s secretary of state Hillary Clinton. That set the tone for the next eight years, which culminated in Obama’s unprecedented instructions to his ambassador at the UN to abstain, rather than veto, the resolution condemning Israel at the Security Council.
Israel had gone through some rough spots over the years in its relations with Washington, but never anything like these eight years. Compare them with the heartfelt reception Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife received from President Donald Trump and his wife on their first visit to Washington after the elections.
And it didn’t end there. Nikki Haley, newly appointed as Trump’s ambassador to the UN, was quick to announce that “the days of Israel-bashing are over.” This was declared by the ambassador of the most powerful country in the world, which provides 22 percent of the funding for the United Nations’ agencies and activities. She cannot change the fact that among the UN member nations there is an automatic majority for any anti-Israel resolution, but you can count on it that such resolutions at the Security Council shall be vetoed, and that greater care will be taken in UN’s various bodies when an anti-Israeli resolution will be considered.
The vice president, Mike Pence, reiterated the other day that “after decades of simply talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” You can be sure that the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will certainly not object to making that move when he receives the instructions from Washington.
Possibly most important for Israel is Trump’s new approach to Iran. General Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee last week that Iran is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today and has increased its destabilizing role in the region. There is reason to believe that the view of this professional soldier reflects that of the Trump’s administration. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has called Iran “the single biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
During his meeting with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon in London last week, Mattis said Iran is continuing to behave as an exporter of terrorism and still sponsors militant activity. Asked about his comments made in 2012 that the three primary threats the U.S. faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Mattis told reporters that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since.
Just compare this with Obama’s approach to Iran. Two years ago he made the incongruous statement that “Iran will be and should be a regional power.” He has refused to acknowledge Iran’s support for terrorist activities in the region, and he negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal behind Israel’s back, knowing full well that Israel was the intended target of Iranian missiles when equipped with nuclear warheads. Now it seems that the U.S. and Israel will be reading from the same page when considering how to deal with the Iranian threat. What a relief!
Trump still hasn’t spent 100 days in the White House, but not bad for starters. Not bad at all.
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