By Confronting Iran, Trump Again Strengthens US-Israel Relationship
A little over a year ago, President Donald Trump promised he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, six months later, he delivered on that promise by officially moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Still, the embassy move is just one of many recent achievements that have enhanced the U.S.-Israel relationship under President Trump. Standing up for Israel at the United Nations, confronting Iran, and empowering the Jewish state to defend its interests have been successful outcomes of this policy agenda. Nearly two years into his first term, it’s clear that Israel has a friend in President Trump.
America and Israel always cherished a “special relationship” built on shared respect for democratic values and human rights. From conservative evangelical Christians to progressive LGBTQ activists, Israel has garnered a diverse coalition of support within the United States. Nearly 75 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Jewish state, according to a recent poll conducted by Gallup.
However, this crucial relationship hasn’t been without its setbacks, particularly during the years of the Obama administration. President Obama made a habit of snubbing the Jewish state instead of standing with it.
During his first trip to the Middle East as president, Obama refused to visit Israel in a major break with traditional protocol. He frequently clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the world stage. And in a major shift in U.S. foreign policy, the Obama administration delivered a parting blow by refusing to veto the rabidly anti-Israel U.N. resolution 2334.
Worse, the pinnacle of President Obama’s anti-Israel sentiment came in the form of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite strong opposition from the Israeli government and a bipartisan coalition in the United States, President Obama penned the deal.
The agreement sent $100 billion back to Tehran, dramatically empowering Israel’s key regional adversary. Unsurprisingly, Iran reportedly spent its newfound war chest on expanding its military capabilities and building up its terrorist proxies. Thankfully, President Trump executed a 180-degree course correction by withdrawing from the JCPOA and put the U.S.-Israel relationship back on strong footing.
America again has become a stalwart for Israel at the United Nations. Led by bulldog outgoing Ambassador Nikki Haley, the United States pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council over its repeated anti-Israel bias. And, in June 2018, Haley issued a key veto on a heavily-skewed resolution that would have condemned Israel for violence involving the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
In addition to gains at the United Nations, President Trump has made clear that the era of Iranian appeasement is over. With the end of U.S. participation in the 2015 nuclear deal, he has embarked on a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. The Trump administration has imposed hard-hitting sanctions on Iran, most notably hitting the state’s all-important energy sector that supplies nearly 80 percent of the government’s tax revenue. And the results already are showing.
Iran’s oil exports plummeted from 2.7 million barrels per day in June to 1.7 million-1.9 million in September of this year. Analysts expect Iran to lose another 1 million to 1.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2018 — a big win for the United States and Israel. Crippling Iran’s collection of resources to fund its militaristic ambitions strengthens both Israel’s and America’s security.
Empowering the Jewish state to take direct action against Tehran also has been a theme of the Trump administration. Israel executed strikes on nearly 200 targets in Syria over the past 19 months, dealing a damning blow to Iran’s ability to fortify and arm its proxies in the failing state. Attacks such as this directly align with President Trump’s goal of seeing Iranian forces pack up and exit Syria.
Yes, one year since the official announcement of the embassy move, the U.S.-Israel relationship appears to be stronger than ever. This is just the start. The Jewish state — and the world — can expect America’s pro-Israel policies to continue as long as President Trump is in the White House.
-- Alex Titus, Policy Advisor for America First Policies