When they meet the press following their meeting on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US National Security Adviser John Bolton will certainly say that the unbreakable bond between the two countries is stronger than ever. When Netanyahu meets President Donald Trump at Davos later this month, the press will get a photo of the two, smiling and sharing a hearty handshake.
The two leaders are often viewed through a similar lens: each attacks their respective country’s media and justice system as they face legal challenges, not to mention, anything that feels foreign to them.
But the bond between Israel and the United States, like any pact between free nations, can only endure if the deeds match the rhetoric and if they both radiate strength. This is not the reality here.
With a series of statements, some out of ignorance and some of impulsiveness, Trump has positioned Israel in an inferior position in which the world can see that the White House is not embracing Israel or spreading its security umbrella over it. And in the violent Middle East, one can easily detect weakness.
When the American president says that the Iranians can do as they please in Syria, contrary to Israel’s determination to prevent their entrenchment on its northern border, the message is heard loud and clear not only in Damascus and Moscow, but in Tehran as well.
When the president says that he gives Israel $45 billion so that it can defend itself, he is not only stepping back from his commitment and throwing Israel under the bus. He is reinforcing US anti-Semitism and giving ammunition to many who are enraged at the massive military aid given by the American taxpayer to the Jewish state, thereby reigniting the discussion on why the US must fund Israel’s defense.
When the president announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, the significance was more than symbolic. He is essentially leaving the Middle East to Russian President Vladimir Putin to do as he pleases, and on the way is abandoning the Kurdish allies who are fighting alongside the US against the jihadi forces in Syria.
Words have power; words can sometimes destroy or kill. It is very nice to hear the president express words of affection towards Israel. Netanyahu will surely appreciate receiving an American embrace during the election campaign. He will surely be photographed with the most ridiculed president in the world, albeit one very popular in Israel —where he has earned the monicker of a committed Zionist and the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.
Israel was blinded and charmed by Trump; the Netanyahu government failed to grasp that Trump primarily believes in America First. The implication is that he will bring about its isolation between the two oceans surrounding the American continent.