Following several years of tension between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump will host Netanyahu for their first meeting during his presidency. During this meeting, Trump and Netanyahu will likely discuss Trump’s Pro-Israel campaign promises, such as moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and defending Israel from one-sided U.N. Security Council resolutions. Other priorities for this meeting should include countering the alliance between Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad, increased funding for missile defense, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Although Trump recently suggested that the construction of a new settlement in the West Bank was harmful to the peace process, the administration also signaled that settlements would not become a source of division between America and Israel. President Trump was quick to clarify that he would never condemn Israel for building settlements. This distinction between the apparent preferences of the administration on the issue and the approach of the president towards the peace process is essential. The White House will not place preconditions on negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. President Trump understands that such a move would give the Palestinians an enormous advantage.
In addition to the difficult sacrifices which Israel has offered to make for peace, the Palestinians have frequently made demands that Israel cannot accept. If Israel were forced to dismantle every settlement as a precondition for talks, the negotiations would shift to more dangerous concessions. For example, Palestinians have frequently demanded that Israel accept the so-called “right of return”, admitting millions of Arabs and their descendants who claim refugee status. By accepting this “right of return”, Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish State. Palestinian leaders would also demand that Israel cede East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and all of the Old City, to become the capital of a new Palestinian state. Israel has nothing to gain by conceding everything it can afford prior to the negotiations. Supporters of Israel who oppose settlements must not harm Israel’s ability to negotiate.
Trump and Netanyahu may also revisit the language concerning missile defense in the recently passed Memorandum of Understanding. At the request of the Obama administration, proposed funding for Israeli missile defense was decreased, despite strong bipartisan support for the additional funds. With President Trump at the helm and the same senators, congressmen, and congresswomen on key committees, we may seem some revisions.
Finally, Trump and Netanyahu are likley to discuss the recent success of the Assad Regime, backed by the anti-Israel terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and Israel’s most powerful enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the United States has a clear interest in limiting the regional and international influence of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, the threat to Israel from Hezbollah and Iran is far greater. Hezbollah has stockpiled an arsenal of 150,000 rockets, according to Israeli estimates. Hezbollah’s previous assaults on Israel, Israel’s embassies, Israelis abroad, and the United States, suggest that they will not hesitate to target Tel Aviv and other well-populated areas. While Hezbollah attacks on Israel have been less successful in recent years, they continue to commit horrible atrocities in Syria and provide critical support to the Assad Regime. While Trump’s recent plan to create safe zones for Syrian rebels and civilians may alter the trajectory of the civil war, Netanyahu is likely to suggest additional measures.
Yet, amidst all of these foreign policy puzzles and hard decisions, I believe that Netanyahu and Trump will discuss and seek to expand upon the many contributions which Israel has made to our country. Israeli expertise on irrigation and desalination continues to mitigate the worst effects of the California drought. The Israel Defense Force’s experience searching for and destroying Hamas tunnels can assist our border patrol in apprehending people smugglers and cartel members tunneling under our border. Israel has frequently tested our military equipment and provided our military with technological updates. Cooperation between American and Israeli tech companies has improved both economies, while cooperation between intelligence agencies augments our diplomacy in the Middle East.
Although many challenges remain, President Trump’s early invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu suggests that we will work closely with our ally to achieve our common goals. It sends an unmistakable message, rarely seen during the last eight years, that America stands with the Jewish State of Israel.