This week President Trump made Israel his priority stop during his first foreign trip as president, a trip notably scheduled quicker than the past five U.S. presidents who visited Israel before him. The original purpose of the trip was to signal tighter US-Israel ties. Trump also wished to erase the acrimony many felt festered between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama.
After eight years of the stormiest relationship with Israel in U.S. history, has President Trump laid the foundation for better days ahead?
This question was asked of Bill Koenig on our television program Christ in Prophecy. Bill has been a White House Correspondent for the last fifteen years. He is president of a news website called World Watch Daily, and he publishes a weekly report called “Koenig’s Eye View from the White House.” Bill is also the author of a telling book titled Revealed: Obama’s Legacy.
[Note: Bill’s answer below has been edited slightly for grammar and clarity.]
New Relations With Israel
Bill Koenig: Chapter 3 of my book is titled, “Israel’s Existence in Danger and Middle East Chaos.” It examines the contemptuous relationship the United States fostered with Israel due to President Obama and the many repercussions since his departure.
At the beginning of Obama’s first term, as soon as Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, she had this misguided idea of putting the squeeze on Israeli settlement construction. That certainly started the relationship off on the wrong foot. US-Israeli relations fared no better after her while John Kerry was Secretary of State. He didn’t treat Israel well at all.
Right after he took office in January 2009, President Obama went to the Turkish parliament and then on to Cairo, Egypt. On June 4, 2009, he addressed the Muslim world directly, talking about how great Islam was and the importance of Islamic relations here in the United States. One misstep after another after another came out of the Obama Administration in order to appease Islam and pressure Israel.
Obama wouldn’t even entertain a formal press conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. At one time even, Obama snuck Netanyahu into the White House through the kitchen, leaving him there unannounced, and then went up and had dinner alone with his family. Obama didn’t treat Netanyahu very well.
So, obviously, Netanyahu is very happy about the new Trump Administration. President Trump greeted Netanyahu during his first visit back to the White House with full honors, and held a press conference with him afterwards. I was there to see it in person, and the meeting was fantastic. Spirits were very good!
The Bad Iran Deal
President Obama’s legacy left the Middle East in flames. Take, for example, the Iran Nuke Deal. What a horrible deal! It only made the Middle East even more dangerous than it already is, and it definitely makes things more dangerous for the state of Israel. Much of what was negotiated between Iran and the U.S. was done in secret, and side deals helped to get it approved. Obama shipped plane fulls of bullion and other paper money over to Iran on jets. When all that secret money was made public at the time, Obama’s administration claimed it was for the release of Iranian-held hostages.#PresidentObama's legacy left the #MiddleEast in flames. Click To Tweet
Imagine instead a Republican president shipping billions of covert dollars over to an enemy state. Why the Media would have absolutely crucified him! A good thing we know is this, a Republican administration would never cut such a lousy deal with Iran.
Iran possessed excellent short range missile capability, and they’ve been firing missiles right and left in utter violation of a UN resolution and the Iran Deal agreement. Iran had been working hard on an ICBM that could put Europe and the United States at risk.
We had Iran up against the ropes! I have a good friend in Israel named Mordechai Kedar. He’s a 27-year student of the Middle East and serves in the Israeli Defense Force in the intelligence area. He reported that Iran was up against the ropes, using a boxing term, but we let them off the hook. What a horrible predicament!
Iran is actually now in charge of the Iraqi military. They’ve increased their strength in Syria. They’re potentially moving weapons of mass destruction into Syria, and are attempting to provide weapons to Hezbollah. All these hostile military advancements have been made possible because Barack Obama completely empowered Iran with the Iran Deal.
The world wonders if Israel will step in and do something about Iranian hostility. Actually, Israel was very close to acting while Obama was in office. As a matter of fact, in October 2008 right before the election, from one of the Pentagon leaks we learned that soon-to-be Secretary of State Clinton told Israel not to respond to anything. At almost the same time, Leon Panetta was telling the world that he’d be surprised if Israel didn’t hit Iran between April and June of 2009. Clinton’s posturing was absolutely inexcusable!
Israel at some point eventually will be forced to wage a pre-emptive strike against Iran. They’ll have no choice. What’s interesting is that Israel and every Sunni country right now lies within the short range missile capability of Iran. That targets every Sunni country that borders the Persian Gulf and puts all those nations at risk. This is a very dangerous time for the Middle East.
Here is the silver lining that came from Obama wanting to get out of the Middle East. The Iran Deal has caused the Sunni’s to work with the Israelis. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan have been working in conjunction with Israel because they know Israel will not put up with Iran, for they couldn’t trust Obama and his administration.
A Shift in Policy
The good news concerning a potential new war in the Middle East is that the Trump Administration is operating the best, most realistic, most pragmatic security team in history. Men like Mattis, McMaster, Pompeo with the CIA, and others are key people who fully understand the number one threat to Israel and to the United States, and frankly to the International community at large, is the state of Iran. They are not afraid to call Iran for what it truly is — an Islamic terrorist state. That’s absolutely a huge shift in our government’s position concerning Islam.
Clearly, I’m rather optimistic that U.S. relations with Israel will continue to improve under a Trump presidency, without a doubt. They started off from the first day on the right foot to improve significantly. The Sunni countries are even excited about the Trump Administration’s security team, because they already have had a good working relationship with Mattis, McMaster, and the other generals. These men are true warriors. We had the warrior mentality taken out of the Pentagon during Obama’s time in office, but the warrior mentality has returned and is back in charge of the Pentagon. The warrior mentality is vital to our national security and is key to our national defense, and also helps protect our good friend Israel.U.S. relations with #Israel will continue to improve under a #Trump presidency. Click To Tweet
General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, went on his very first trip over to South Korea and Japan. While there he said that the United States would stand and defend our allies. It was a veiled message to North Korea and China. China has been usurping islands within Japanese territory, and Mattis made it clear that the U.S. was going to defend them. His next trip was to NATO, and while meeting with the NATO leaders he conveyed that the U.S. was committed to NATO, but stipulated that every nation needed to pay their fair share. It was a great meeting!
Mattis is incredibly popular. He even was approved 98 to 1 in the Senate, which gives you an idea of his clout. The Media gave Mattis the nickname Mad Dog, which he doesn’t fully appreciate, but the guy’s a warrior and an intellect. He’s read probably 5,000 or 6,000 books on history. The man truly understands history.
McMasters’ strength is being an out-of-the-box thinker. Pompeo’s got a proven track record as a great Christian congressman and now head of the CIA. He was probably the most outspoken member of Congress about the bad Iran Deal. He’s already been over to the Middle East before. Good things will be happening with these guys!