Trump-Netanyahu meeting promises fresh start for US, Israel
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Friends of Israel have high hopes for the upcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his meeting with President Trump.

Throughout his campaign, and in the early days of his presidency, Trump has declared his commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he will have an opportunity to give that pledge concrete meaning during Netanyahu’s visit. 

After nearly every interaction between President Obama and Netanyahu, commentators suggested the longstanding U.S.-Israel alliance was in peril. Obama made no secret of his dislike for Netanyahu, as evidenced in pejorative remarks overheard on an open microphone, a campaign to prevent his reelection, public condemnation and high-profile snubs during official visits. Netanyahu had little love for the president and the relationship was described, at best, as cold.

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In truth, the ties that bind the two nations are strong enough to withstand the sometimes contentious relationship between leaders of the two countries. This is because of the depth and breadth of the ties between Americans and Israelis, their shared values and interests, and the cooperative activities at the federal, state, local and individual levels. We hope that Trump will take the relationship to the next level, as early signs indicate.

 

In this first visit, it is important for the two men to develop a rapport, but also to speak candidly about the common enemies facing Israel and the United States as well as the opportunities for greater cooperation.

The No. 1 item on the agenda should be Iran.

This issue was at the heart of the dispute between Netanyahu and Obama, with the former insisting that the latter could have achieved a better deal. Ultimately, Obama caved in on many of his original demands and left the door open, as he himself admitted, for Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb in the future. 

Moreover, his desperation to have one foreign policy success to add to his legacy allowed Iran to blackmail the United States into paying cash ransoms to free American hostages and to paralyze the administration from acting against Iranian misbehavior out of fear they would renege on the deal. Obama sold the deal with the promise of a verification regime that would preclude Iran for building a weapon; within months, we learned the Iranians were violating the agreement with impunity.

Trump has repeatedly said that the nuclear deal with Iran is the worst he’s ever seen and that he would take steps to correct the mistakes of the Obama administration. He has already imposed new sanctions and expressed support for further congressional action against Iran. He also recognizes that Iran is a leading sponsor of terror, threatens its neighbors and is engaged in ballistic missile research that could endanger Europe and the United States. This genocidal regime just carried out yet another missile test, with a rocket painted with the Hebrew words meaning “Israel should be wiped off the earth.” 

During their meeting, Trump should lay out additional steps to punish Iran for violating the agreement and new measures to halt its development of ballistic missiles meant to carry nuclear warheads. He has already moved additional naval forces into the Persian Gulf and he should agree with Netanyahu that sanctions be backed with the threat of military force.

The two leaders agree on the threat posed by radical Islam and should increase the level of intelligence sharing and military cooperation in the fight against Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and other extremist groups.

The president should also fulfill his campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy. Some are concerned that such a move will provoke violence, but Trump cannot allow the United States to be prevented from righting a historical wrong because of terrorist threats from the Palestinians and radical Muslims. The mightiest nation on earth cannot be blackmailed.

I do not believe that Trump will follow the Obama policy of cowering in the face of such threats — it would render his foreign policy equally ineffective. At the end of their meeting, Trump should announce the change in policy and instruct his impressive new ambassador, David Friedman, to conduct U.S. diplomatic affairs from Jerusalem.

The president seems to also agree with the prime minister that Israel has no partner for peace. The Palestinians refused to negotiate during the sympathetic Obama administration and, instead, circumvented direct talks and sought to have the international community impose a Palestinian-authored solution on Israel. Trump should reiterate that the terrorists of Hamas and the incitement of the Palestinian Authority are the obstacles to peace. He should follow through on his promise to slash funding to the U.N. and heed congressional sentiment to withhold funds until the U.N. reverses its anti-Israel policies and resolutions.

Trump should also reaffirm that peace will only be achieved through direct negotiations and use American influence to put pressure on the Palestinians to make concessions after eight years of one-sided pressure on Israel. While Obama decided to ignore his predecessor’s commitments to Israel, Trump should pull out the letter from George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon that recognized the need to take into account the changes on the ground in any peace negotiations and the right of Israelis to live in their historic homeland, which includes the West Bank. He need not endorse the construction of unlimited settlement construction, but he should express support for building in the settlement blocs and Jerusalem.

It would also be nice if Trump renegotiated parts of the foreign aid deal signed by Obama that prevents any aid from being spent in Israel and penalizes Israel if it seeks additional support from Congress. Other elements of strategic cooperation, such as joint weapons development, cybersecurity and military exercises, should also be enhanced.

The Trump-Netanyahu meeting offers an opportunity to turn the page from the antagonistic Obama administration, to a return to the special friendship based on mutual respect, shared values and common interests.  

 

Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox Jewish rabbi, the author of over 30 books, TV host and public speaker. He was a spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson and has been repeatedly recognized as one of the nation's most influential rabbis by Newsweek. Reach him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.