Trump's First Year Was Good for Israel

With Trump’s entry into the White House the entire mood of U.S.-Israeli relations changed. Gone were the criticism, lecturing and admonitions that Israelis grew accustomed to hearing from Obama, time and again

U.S. President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence behind him during the announcement that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, December 6, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

According to the American statistician Nate Silver, who has an enviable reputation for forecasting U.S. election results, 56.3 percent of the U.S. public disapproves of Donald Trump’s performance during his first year in office, while 37.7 percent approve. He shows that Trump’s approval rating at this point is lower than that of any previous American president in recent times. The avalanche of criticism leveled at Trump in the American media is presumably a reflection of this level of disapproval. In some European capitals they are less than enthusiastic about him.

By contrast, it is undeniable that for Israel, Trump’s first year in office has been good. It compares very favorably with the White House’s relations with Israel during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. The final chord in that relationship came in the last days of Obama’s second term, when the United States, in a drastic departure from policy, refrained from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel. Compare that with the U.S. veto a year later of a Security Council resolution expressing regret over Trump’s decision to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city. Under Trump, the White House stands by Israel at the United Nations.

C’est le ton qui fait la musique. With Trump’s entry into the White House the entire mood of U.S.-Israeli relations changed. Gone were the criticism, lecturing and admonitions that Israelis grew accustomed to hearing from Obama, time and again. From the first day, Trump made it clear that the United States and Israel were friends. More than friends — allies. His visit to Israel was a celebration.

Unlike Obama, Trump had no compunctions about calling a spade a spade. Islamic terrorism was a danger. Not only to Israel, but to the entire world. It had to be fought, and Israel would not be left alone to fight it. Whatever claims the Palestinians may have, terrorism would not be accepted as a legitimate weapon to advance them. This he made clear to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when they met on Trump’s first visit to the region.

In October, Trump decertified the Iranian nuclear agreement. Unlike Obama, who spoke of Iran’s right to be a regional power, Trump recognized Iran’s aggressive intentions in the area, its use of Hezbollah terrorists to advance its goals in Lebanon and in Syria and the infiltration of Iranian revolutionary militias into Iraq and Syria. The nuclear deal, a “bad deal,” had left Iran free to advance its ballistic missile program and its efforts to dominate the Middle East and threaten Israel. Israel was no longer left alone in its recognition of these threats. It now had a powerful friend who shared its concerns.

It took a year, but it finally happened. Trump acknowledged the fact that Jerusalem was indeed Israel’s capital city. In regard to Jerusalem, the whole world had for almost 70 years played a game of make-believe. As if Israel had no capital, or Jerusalem only its virtual capital. The world was intent on pursuing the fantasy that Israel would have no capital until such time as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been resolved, no matter how long that would take.

When, after the United States cast its veto at the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly was called into session to vote on a resolution submitted by Turkey and Yemen in an attempt to express massive opposition to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel was not left alone in objecting to this motion presented by countries hostile to Israel and supported by Muslim states and by those who preferred hypocrisy to principle. The minority that opposed the motion held the moral high ground.

Like him or not, Trump’s first year in office has been good for Israel.