Ex-IDF Intelligence Chief: Following Trump Victory, Israel Has Chance to Bolster Relationship With US
Following the election of Donald Trump, Israel has a chance bolster its relationship with America, an ex-IDF intelligence chief said on Tuesday.
“Israel can try to influence the new administration’s Middle East policy and assume a central and valuable role,” Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin — director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University — wrote in an analysis published on the INSS website.
First and foremost, Yadlin noted, there is a need to rebuild a “mutual sense of trust between the US administration and the Israeli government.” However, Yadlin went on to say, “It is imperative that Israel not be identified as a ‘Republican issue’…Israel must strive to reestablish itself as a bipartisan American issue.”
Israel, Yadin stated, “is eager to see a more resolute US policy in the Middle East. The United States is the only party with the ability to contain and stop Iran’s aspiration and march toward hegemony in the region, deal effectively with the Islamic State [group], and contain [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations.”
Furthermore, he asserted, “Israel’s good relations with Egypt and Jordan, overlapping interests with Saudi Arabia, and renewed relations with Turkey can all serve as a foundation for a strong US-led Middle East alliance that will be able to contend more effectively with the challenges these states face — most notably, Iran and the Iranian-led axis, Salafi jihadist terrorism, and Moscow’s support for Israel’s leading enemies — Iran and Hezbollah — in order to strengthen its position in Syria.”
According to Yadlin, the Islamic Republic is the “most important strategic issue” requiring attention.
“Iran poses the greatest threat to Israel in the long term, and a nuclear armed Iran poses a threat to the United States and to world peace,” Yadlin wrote. “It is important that the incoming president reinforce Obama’s promise that he would never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Yadlin called the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers “highly problematic,” but went on to assess that it was “unlikely that a Trump administration would withdraw from it — particularly since in the short term, the alternatives are far more problematic.”
“The agreement becomes highly dangerous in the long term, when it will position Iran legitimately on the nuclear capability threshold with a broad, advanced nuclear program,” said Yadlin, one of the eight Israel Air Force F-16 pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981. “It would therefore be advisable for Israel, in dialogue with the new administration, to underscore once again the dangers of the agreement and prepare means to mitigate them.”
Also, Yadlin added, “It will be necessary to engage the Trump administration in a dialogue regarding responses to provocative Iranian action aimed at achieving hegemony in the Middle East that is not covered by the nuclear agreement…In this context, the Trump administration may be firmer with Iran than the Obama administration, which hesitated to take action in an effort to avoid risking the nuclear agreement.”
Regarding the ongoing civil war across the border in Syria, Yadlin said Israel should “launch the uphill battle to convince the Trump administration that Russian activity in Syria strengthens Israel’s leading enemies: Iran and Hezbollah. It will be important to reach an understanding with the Trump administration that Iran and Hezbollah must not be allowed to establish themselves or a terrorist infrastructure on the Golan Heights.”
“It will be necessary to strive to leverage the incoming US president’s declared willingness to reach agreements with [Russian President Vladmir] Putin on a global level to ensure that American concessions to Russia — if decided upon as part of an effort to reduce tensions between the superpowers — will not be implemented in the Middle East context, and motivate Russia to contribute to the effort to conclude the crisis in Syria and establish a transitional government that is representative of all the ethnic groups in the divided country, but without [Syrian President Bashar] Assad.”
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Yadlin predicted the “change of administrations in the United States may offer an opportunity to assess new paradigms for progress.”
“[W]hile a final status agreement is beyond reach at the current time, a two-state solution remains a viable goal for the future,” Yadlin said.
He also stated that the Jewish state should try to work with the outgoing Obama administration in the next two months to thwart any potential UN Security Council resolutions involving “plans for an Israeli-Palestinian permanent agreement that are formulated without coordination with the Israeli government and against its policy, as this would leave Israel with no negotiating cards for the future.”
However, in an interview with The Algemeiner last week, Middle East expert Jonathan Schanzer — vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington, DC — said Trump’s victory over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton could make outgoing President Barack Obama feel “less encumbered” about launching an end-of-term lame-duck Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic initiative.