(December 6, 2018 / JNS)
Ever since Israel and the United States struck a strategic alliance at the end of the 1960s, the world has seen that alliance as a measure of American credibility and power worldwide. The closer U.S.-Israel ties are, the stronger America’s status and influence in the international community are.
Despite that, in times of tension between America and the Jewish state, the U.S.’s stature is seen as less influential. For example, when former President Barack Obama distanced himself from Israel, Russia invaded Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, as well as Syria. We can see the same dynamic at work today under the Trump administration, which is the friendliest Israel has known since the state was established.
This friendship isn’t merely personal. Former President George W. Bush, a friend and ally of Israel, said “the U.S. is not a country of 300 million, but one of 308 million.” But Bush had a secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who frequently made harsh statements against Israeli settlements and against Israeli military actions in Lebanon and Gaza, and compared the suffering of the Palestinians to that of the black population in the U.S. prior to the civil-rights movement. There is no one like Rice in the Trump administration.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is adopting unqualified pro-Israeli stances and placing responsibility for instability in the Middle East squarely on Iran. In addition, National Security Advisor John Bolton has defied the Israeli-American alliance as “a cornerstone” of U.S. foreign policy in the Trump era.
In addition, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley hasn’t missed a chance to defend Israel and its right to defend itself, and set a pro-Israeli precedent that others will find difficult to erase, even after she leaves the job at the end of this month. For two years, the White House has not voiced even a word of real criticism against Israel.
The closeness is expressed by two historic decisions. The first was the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a move that served both U.S. and Israeli interests. The second was America recognizing Jerusalem as our eternal capital and relocating its embassy to the city. In both cases, U.S. President Donald Trump demonstrated that he was for Israel and took a stance against the opinions of almost everyone. As a result, he only grew stronger.
That approach has not gone unnoticed by other world leaders, who are impressed with the strong stance the United States is taking alongside Israel. They were impressed that the commitments Trump made to Israel, including campaign promises, were fulfilled, strengthening his reputation as someone who keeps his promises. That will help the president change trade conditions between the United States and Canada, Mexico and China.
Strategically, the president’s commitment to Israel has given credence to his threats to use force against North Korea if Kim Jong-un didn’t stop firing missiles at Japan. One result was the U.S.-North Korean summit. North Korea saw that Trump lives up to his words, dialed back its threats, and held the summit.
A year has passed since the president stood up at the White House and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Since then, other countries, including the Czech Republic and Brazil, have declared their intentions to follow suit. Likewise, stringent American sanctions are back in place against Iran and most businesspeople in the world, including in Europe, which fought so hard to protect the nuclear deal, have been forced to cooperate.
Only this week, the Chinese announced that they were willing to significantly increase their purchase of American products. The most dramatic effect was seen in the Arab world. Arab leaders know they can’t step between the United States and Israel, and that they can depend on the president when it comes to Iran. That has led to an unprecedented rapprochement between Israel and the Sunni Muslim world, a most welcome development, and not only on Iran but also for current and future American efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
This is all good news for Israel. No one disputes that our diplomatic situation is better now than it was in 2016, and much of that is due to the policies of the current U.S. administration. But not only Israel—the entire world can now enjoy the advantages of being able to depend on an uncompromising American position.
Michael Oren is a former Israeli ambassador to the United States. He currently serves as deputy public diplomacy minister.