There is no doubt that President Trump supports Israel more than most of his predecessors. But American Presidents cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. Now approaching half way in President Trump’s first and maybe only term of office Israel must take a backseat. Being too close to one President and one American political party may jeopardize robust, enduring and bipartisan American support.
This is not an innovative necessity. The list of essential examples of strong Israel-American relations is long. The list of examples of strong Israel Prime Minister – American President relations is short. Israel must be vigilant about how the American public and other American political parties view and consider Israel’s relations with Trump. It is not healthy for Israel to be seen to be so close with a not that popular, highly partisan president. In just over two years the American public will once again elect a President. Trump’s 2016 victory was by way of the system (the Electoral College) but it should be remembered that it is in sharp contrast to his loss of the popular ballot by three million. Another factor will be who contests Trump.
Israel wants the presidents elected in 2020 and 2024 and more so the American public to support strong Israel-American relations. Israel wants these presidents to be in the Trump mould but not necessarily President Trump himself. The President Trump mould has been to agree to Israel’s requests and provide unequivocal support in international forum such as the United Nations. With such support Israel has been able to work independently and with the Trump administration in achieving goals, out of the glare and antagonism of the world.
Leading the list of goals is tackling Iran that highlights and requires not only strong Israel Prime Minister – American President relations but also public support in both countries. In a show of unity the hawkish American secretary of state Mike Pompeo has adopted Israel’s stance toward Iran highlighting Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East after his country pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal labelling it “defective at its core.” The sanctions proposed are the strongest yet and will definitely make Iran consider its options. However American bipartisan support is essential for the future and for working with American allies
Next on list of goals but of equal if not greater importance for Israel citizens and Jews worldwide is an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. Although this is a non-negotiable religious fact and statement it is also linked to negotiations with Palestinians. The relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has been a long-time Israeli goal. Israel will need very strong bipartisan American support to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians that includes Jerusalem. Significantly no Democrats joined the congressional delegation to the dedication of the U.S. Embassy ceremony in Jerusalem.
In foreign and security policy and in reality the future of Palestinians is as important as Iran for Israel. It is being addressed by the Trump Administration in a manner that no previous American administration has done. The most recent case came is when IDF soldiers facing dozens of Palestinians to prevent their surge across the Gaza border used live fire. The United States supported Israel accusing Hamas for instigating the violence. The American Ambassador in the UN staged a dramatic walkout.
Trump is extremely popular in Israel in these affairs of strengthening foreign and security policy, countering terrorist and state threats, proposing peace processes and supporting Jewish religious identity. However Trump is significantly less popular in his own country. His citizens have a longer list to evaluate him that includes the American economy and laws about health and education. Israel’s public diplomacy must move towards being cautious about President Trump because it needs to further bipartisan support and doesn’t desire to alienate the American public especially American Jews most of whom have traditionally opposed Trump’s Republican Party and more so Trump.
The focus of Israel’s public diplomacy for the American 2020 and 2024 Presidential Elections must be not to support Trump publically but to strengthen bipartisan support as power will inevitably changes hands. Israel doesn’t want to return to the clashes of policy and personality that existed between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama if Trump is not re-elected in 2020 or with whoever is elected for the first time in 2024.