Op-ed: U.S.-Israel relations set to improve

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Saturday, December 10, 2016 11:51am
  • Opinion

The consensus in Israel is that the relationship between the Jewish state and the United States is going to improve in a Trump administration, says former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Zalman Shoval.

On a recent visit to Washington, D.C., Shoval told me that he believes Donald Trump and his cabinet picks so far have a more “realistic” view of the Middle East than President Obama, who from his first days in office, “perhaps before, believed it was his calling to fix once and for all, all matters between the U.S. and the Arab and Muslim worlds, as expressed in his Cairo speech. … This gives Trump in the hearts and minds of more than a few Israelis a head-start.”

Shoval said he believes the issue of a Palestinian state — the objective of U.S. foreign policy over several administrations — has become less concerning than the regional and international threat posed by a nuclear Iran. He likes recent statements by secretary of defense-designate Gen. James Mattis about the way forward in dealing with an unstable Iran, believing Mattis recognizes that as important as it is to defeat ISIS, the real threat in the Middle East is Iran.

It’s not only the nuclear deal that bothers Shoval, though he believes Iran will eventually have a bomb, unless it is stopped. It is also bothersome that Iran continues with its terrorist activities, subsidizing anti-American and anti-Israel groups around the world because radical mullahs think their god has ordered them to do so. That makes any kind of diplomatic agreement with nations Iran regards as “infidels” impossible.

Even when the battle for Mosul is over and victory has been declared over that ISIS stronghold, Shoval believes, “what it really will mean is that the Iranians and the Shia are going to be the real victors. They will continue their attempts to build a territorial corridor all the way to the Mediterranean along with Hezbollah, which is not only a threat to Israel, but also something the so-called moderate Arab states look at with a great deal of concern.”

Shoval says he hopes the incoming Trump administration realizes that Iran cannot be a partner with the United States in the Middle East “even if from time to time it seems like that because of what’s happening in Syria. Ultimately, Iran is a great danger.”

People like former President Jimmy Carter have a different worldview. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Carter called on President Obama to recognize a Palestinian state before he leaves office. Carter also called on the UN to pass a resolution setting the parameters for “resolving the conflict.”

I believe in miracles, but for the UN, or anyone else, to resolve a conflict in which one side thinks it has a heavenly mandate to destroy the other is not where most people would see as a good starting point for conflict resolution. Carter continues to trade off his one success — the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. But getting one thing right with a unique combination of leaders, one of whom — Anwar Sadat — was assassinated by Islamic fanatics for making peace with Israel, is like an astrologer wanting credit for one prediction that came true while ignoring hundreds that didn’t.

Shoval disagrees with those who think the Israel-Palestinian status quo is not sustainable. He believes it is, otherwise a Palestinian state “would mean Hamas and Hezbollah would be just 20 minutes away” from Jerusalem and in a position to overwhelm Israel.

In his book, “The Field of Fight,” Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick to head the National Security Council, writes about President Obama: “I find it simply incredible that an American president should believe a strategic alliance with Iran to be more attractive than our traditional embrace of Israel. Our new leaders need to reverse that, pronto. We will need Israel if we’re going to defeat the radical Islamists, and above all, the Iranians.”

This is the opposite of wishful thinking.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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