NIKKI HALEY, US Ambassador to the UN..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
They say a week is a long time in politics. Well, this past year has seen enough action in the US and around the world to last a lifetime. Looking back over the 12 months since US President Donald Trump gained arguably the most improbable election victory in American history, it is a good time to reflect on what his administration has meant for Jews there and around the world.
Trump came into office in the immediate aftermath of predecessor Barack Obama’s parting gift to Israel at the UN Security Council, where for the first time in US history Israel’s closest ally on the global stage abstained from a vote on Israeli settlement activity. This move caused considerable consternation among American Jewry, for Obama had turned his back on years of American foreign policy and set the tone for an agenda that threatened to derail America’s bond with Israel.
Trump had been vocal in his commitments to Israel on the campaign trail, pledging to overturn his predecessor’s veto of the anti-settlement resolution at the UNSC, as well as to moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
His new appointee to the role of US ambassador to the UN similarly heralded the start of a new era in the relationship of the US. In her maiden speech, Nikki Haley insisted the Trump administration would “have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our backs as well.” Furthermore, the US would in future abstain from any UN vote on a resolution which sought to “encourage boycotts of Israel.”
Trump himself seized on the UN’s weakness, choosing his own maiden speech at the General Assembly in September to condemn the UN’s culture of “bureaucracy and mismanagement,” which he argued prevented the body from restoring its once great reputation as a global influencer in promoting universal human rights and the peaceful coexistence of nations.
The Trump administration has similarly been clear in vocalizing its commitment to securing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, suggesting that his own negotiating power offers the US “maybe the best shot ever” of achieving elusive peace. However, there has been little concrete progress in the process.
If he is to realize his lofty ambitions for achieving a strong, stable and secure Israel and the best environment for peace in the region, Trump now has to match strong rhetoric with action. He should begin by taking decisive steps against those questioning Israel’s rights to exist and who advocate a series of unjustified sanctions and boycotts.
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Trump’s uncompromising rhetoric has earned him a considerable fan base in Israel, where his approval rating is healthier than on his home turf. A largely disillusioned American Jewry is looking for more demonstrable signs of a commitment to action on the Middle East peace process.
Meanwhile, an increasingly isolationist agenda on matters of wider foreign policy inhibits American influence on the world stage. The US would better serve its closest ally Israel by preserving its reputation as a global power player.
America could repair its somewhat damaged diplomatic prestige to lead a coordinated effort by international nations to secure Israel’s borders and pave the way to achieving peace in the region.
Another area of concern is the growing alt-right in the US and the forces of hatred that the new climate is unleashing. Charlottesville was a debacle that must never recur. Antisemitism must be stamped out wherever it rears its ugly head.
In decertifying the Iran deal – an ill-conceived strategy that went against the interests of Israel, America and all those opposed to terrorism – Trump sent a clear message that dangerous regimes looking to spread terrorism on our doorsteps and throughout the Middle East alike would not be tolerated.
In turning his back on the once-lauded deal, without the support of much of the international community, Trump once again displayed a strong sense of moral courage. Persisting with an ineffective and an unenforceable agreement only risks further instability at what is a key transitional time in the development of Iran’s dangerous plans for the region and the safety of its neighbors and the world.
President Trump has adopted an uncompromising policy on ISIS, which has undoubtedly brought success, declaring only last month that the reason for the US concluding major military operations in Raqqa was as a result of his overhaul of the rules of engagement in the fight against the terrorist group.
In the Trump administration’s most buoyant declaration of victory in the fight against ISIS, he added: “ISIS is now giving up, they are giving up, they are raising their hands, they are walking off.
Nobody has ever seen that before.”
While the military is cautious on whether victory has been won in Iraq, Trump still faces myriad foreign policy challenges elsewhere in the region that need addressing urgently. In Lebanon, western powers and moderate alike were alarmed by the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week, citing fears over the growing influence of Iranian proxy, Hezbollah.
The announcement came amid mounting fears over the consolidation of Iranian influence in Lebanon and was perhaps the most worrying sign to date of the internationally designated terrorist group Hezbollah’s dangerous intentions.
America must now look to cooperate with its allies in the region to counter the combined force of Iran and Hezbollah, or else the situation is certain to spiral, increasing the likelihood of a clash with Israel as well as the spread of terrorism throughout the Middle East.
Twelve months on, Trump has been true to his word and been a real friend to Israel and taken the fight to the terrorists around the world. While this is deeply encouraging, we cannot avoid the dangers of the increasing alt-right and populist rhetoric. Trump must now condemn unequivocally the forces of bigotry and hatred at home, as staunchly as he has been defending Israel’s interests abroad.The writer is president of the American Jewish Congress.
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