The Full Guide to the Blockbuster US-Israel Relations -by Ofir Agai

An improvement in Israel-US Relations? US President Trump with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Credit : Jpost.com

There is no doubt that the Israeli PM and the US president were both pleased from their joint press conference. Benjamin Netanyahu also thanked his dear friend Donald Trump for the warm welcoming to the White House and even changed his Facebook picture to a photo of him and Trump with their wives Sarah and Melania.

But did everything go as they expected? And more importantly, what does the people in Israel think about the results of the meeting?

To find out we need to start a few days before the meeting itself.

Before Prime Minister Netanyahu flew for his meeting with President Trump he received a faced a lot of pressure from some member of the Israeli Coalition. They expected him to back down from the Two-State solution. They believed that with the new administration comes a new Era. And with that new Era comes the opportunity to let go of old ideas and go with a more right-winged approach to the solution for the Isareli-Palestinian conflict. They are sure that Trump hasn’t decided on how to approach the conflict so it’s best not to give him any ideas that might damage Israel’s position in the long term.

The topic did come up in the joint press conference and got answered by both Netanyahu and Trump.

Trump said that he will go with a solution that will make both Israelis and Palestinians happy. Netanyahu said that the two state solution could only exist if the Palestinians agreed to the following terms

  1. The PA will acknowledge the existent of a jewish state and stop spreading hatred against Israel by the arab media and in Palestinian schools.
  2. The security of the two states will be under Israel responsibility, which is the only way to reassure the security of Israel.
  3. Israel will control the borders and the skyline, and the Palestinian state will be unarmed.

By saying that, the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a message to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

He showed the Palestinians that he’s not going back from his words in his Bar-Ilan speech, and that he’s always ready to work out a peace agreement as long as they’re willing to agree to the terms.

He reassured the Israelis that their safety comes first, by setting the terms that will lower the threat on Israel security by the Palestinian state. He also showed the media and the president that he is willing to go to the negotiation table and that the Palestinians are the ones that are refusing to do so. It is a very important statement that will benefit countering BDS and Palestinian propaganda which claims that Israel is preventing the progress of the peace talks.

Meanwhile, in Israel

In Israel the media was more focused on what Trump said. The right-wing saw it as an opportunity to find a different solution that will benefit them better than the previous administration, and in the left-wing they saw it as a threat that if Israel won’t agree to the two-states solution Trump won’t have a problem with promoting a one state solution, a thing no President has ever agreed to before, and what they believe will bring to an arab majority and the end of a jewish state.

The Israeli left-wing may be panicking over nothing because Trump hasn’t abandoned the two state solution, it’s quite the opposite of that, by the looks of it the American President leaning towards that option, otherwise he wouldn’t have asked Israel to: “hold back the building in the settlements for a little bit” a request that always causes controversy in Israel. On the one hand Israel is an independent country, and it should not allow any other country to intervene in its internal policy, not even Israel’s greatest ally, America. On the other hand Israel relies on the friendship with the US and cannot afford to risk damaging it by denying its requests. However this time the request didn’t cause any controversy. It appears that the right-wing in Israel is still counting on Trump. Maybe because he phrased it as a friendly request, unlike Obama’s “not one brick” demand. Or maybe it’s because he’s only talking against expending the settlements and not against settlements as a whole. Whatever the reason may be, that request didn’t harm his reputation as a friend of Israel.

Donald Trump seems optimistic about solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He promised to be fair to Israel and that nothing will be forced on Israel by the US or the UN. This is a relief for Israel which is in a disadvantage in the United Nations councils due to an automatic anti-zionist majority in most of the votes. Trump pointed out that both parties are going to have to negotiate and both parties will have to make compromises.

Despite these two controversial topics that headlined in the Israeli media and surly will be discussed between Israel and the united states in the future. The conference warm and good spirited.

The two leaders traded compliments and mentioned the great friendship between two countries. Netanyahu said “Israel has no greater ally than the US. And there is no greater ally to the US than Israel”. He mentioned the common values of both countries. He mentioned that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to those values, terrorists organizations such as ISIS and terrorists countries such as iran, and that there is now a great opportunity to work together with other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia against those common enemies and strengthen the security together and to bring the alliance between Israel and the united states to greater heights.

What about the US Embassy in Tel Aviv?

When asked about moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Trump answered that he is looking into it with great care. The question on the embassy keeps the Israelis and the arab world at the edge of their seats. It could mean a recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (a thing that Trump personally already did) which means a lot to Israel, especially after the UN resolution that meant to deny the historic and religious connection between the jewish people and Jerusalem. It could also mean an opening for other embassies to move to Jerusalem as well. Which is exactly why a lot of arab leaders are opposing that move. Some Palestinian leaders went as far as saying that such move will be a declaration of war, a threat that reminds the Israeli of the last terror wave in Israel that was triggered by a speech of Mahmud abbes in which he falsely accused Israel of threatening al aqsa masque. It made the Israelis take those threats very seriously and some Israeli who opposed the relocation of the embassy claimed that Israel will be the first to be targeted by terror attacks. However, other voices in Israel are claiming that it is wrong to change policies because of terror threats and that the embassy shell be relocated in Jerusalem despite those threats. The threats by the Palestinian leaders and a discussion with the Jordanian king caused trump to reconsider. And a lot of Israelis figured that he went back from his promise, and by saying that his administration is still looking into it he showed Israel that it’s still  a consideration.

 

On the Topic of Iran

The Israeli prime minister said that he’s welcoming the change in the American attitude toward Iran. Trump said that the Iran deal is one of the worst deals he has ever seen. If that sounds familiar it’s because Benjamin Netanyahu said it while the deal was made. In his speeches he repeated the sentence “it is better to have no deal than a bad deal”. After knowing that it is completely understandable how pleased he truly was to see that he and the new president are on the same page regarding that issue.

Last month Iran launched a ballistic missile as an experiment. Trump declared that it was a violation of the agreement, as a response the Iranian foreign minister claimed that it’s not a violation because the ballistic missiles are not intended against any country. Netanyahu addressed that claim in the conference and said that the Iranians wrote “Israel must be destroyed” on the missiles. He also mention the connection between Iran and Hezbollah. He said that they need to pay for the Islamic terrorism that they have formatted in the Middle East.

Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Israel, the US, and all of the other nations in the region who see eye to eye on the danger of the Iranian threat will work together they could roll back Iran’s aggression.

The conference has ended with a question about the anti-Semitism in America and the claims against Trump on the matter. PM Netanyahu responded to that question by saying that he has known Trump and part of his team for a long time and he concluded both the conference and his answer with one sentence “there is no greater supporter to the jewish people and the jewish state than President Donald Trump, I think we should put that to rest”

The conference has ended in the same positive note which it had started. Both leaders are on the same page on some major subjects, they have agreed to work against Islamic terrorism, they have agreed to work together on rolling back Iran’s aggression, and they have agreed about the importance of the friendship between the US and Israel. The relations between Israel and the United States are seemingly getting stronger than before, and we will most surly are going to see a different foreign policy by the united states, however it is still early to know exactly what said policy will be and if that means that the new administration will be more involved in middle eastern affairs that the previous one.

Ofir Agai
About Ofir Agai 3 Articles
Ofir is an Israeli analyst specialized in diplomacy and the changing political landscapes in the US and in the Middle East. He has a rich, professional background in International Relations and Political Science from a very young age.
Contact: Website

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