The assessments are starting… now!
The confluence of Israeli and American elections has brought the pundits out in full force to dissect the question, “What does this mean for U.S-Israel relations?” Two points should illuminate the conversation.
First, for all the hyperbole, there is a fundamental sharing of democratic Western values between the two countries, and confluence of interests on basic international security issues — with the possible exception of Iran, but that is changing. Second, in both countries, there are domestic considerations on people’s minds that foreign friends would do best not to meddle in.
Israel was, is and will remain a free and democratic country. Voters had choices ranging from an Islamic Arab Party to a far left anti-Zionist party, to several in the secular left and center-left to right and center-right, to both the religious and anti-religious right. That’s a lot more choices than American voters had.
More than 70% of eligible Israeli voters went to the polls, which is a lot higher than American turnout. For those worried that a religious right wing party may be in the government, please note that it won 7% of the vote.
Which is the second point. When American voters elected Ilhan (“It’s the Benjamins, baby”) Omar, Israelis did not fret about the end of America. When the death of George Floyd sparked deadly riots across the United States, Israel did not denounce American police as racist. When protesters entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, the Israeli government did not bewail “insurrection.” Those are not issues that need Israeli government input.
And neither does judicial reform in Israel. It is worthwhile to understand that Israel, with no written Constitution, has a different set of issues for its Supreme Court than Americans might have for our own. But that’s as far as it goes. No one in Israel said a word about the Democrat plan to expand and stack the U.S. Supreme Court.
What about the Biden administration’s insistence on the “two state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians? Israeli domestic considerations are important, and Israeli voters prioritize personal and national security. It was inevitable that parties with a more jaundiced view of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas would do better, as would parties that advocate a tougher position on the riots in mixed Arab-Jewish cities. Again, not a place the U.S. can weigh in with much success, unless it is to demand that the PA stop inciting violence against Israelis and paying salaries to terrorists as American law requires.
What’s left? Iran, CENTCOM, and the Abraham Accords. The backbone of a strong, mutually beneficial cooperative relationship.
Both the outgoing and incoming Israeli governments disagreed vociferously with Washington’s determination to conclude a new nuclear-related agreement with Iran. Both insist Israel will not permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and both have attacked Iranian assets in Syria to maintain Israel’s red lines.
No changes there, but events in Iran have made it unlikely that there will be more Vienna talks or a U.S.-Iranian agreement. The people of Iran are openly working to oust the bloody mullahs. They’re not looking for the government to “listen to the protestors” as Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested. Iranians want freedom and liberty. Like Israel has. Like America has.
This, in fact, helps the U.S. and Israel see Iran in its proper framework. It is no longer possible for the Biden administration to bring an Iran deal home to the American people as a victory. And the fact that Iran has been actively assisting Russia in bloodying the Ukrainian civilian population and destroying its civilian infrastructure only makes it less likely that the U.S. and Iran will find a meeting ground on a successor to the old JCPOA.
This goes to the point of Israel in the U.S .Central Command (CENTCOM). Israel joined the United States and its Middle Eastern allies in CENTCOM to enhance security in the Red Sea and to better work with Israel’s Abraham Accords partners. Joint missile defense exercises and the provision of Israeli air defense systems to the United Arab Emirates make everyone safer from Iranian aggression. U.S.-Israel security cooperation should be enhanced for the benefit of the region.
Which leads directly to the Abraham Accords themselves. After initially refusing to use the moniker — calling them “peace agreements,” the Biden administration has come reluctantly on board.
The reluctance should end now. Instead of a high ranking envoy to Vienna for the Iranians, or a high ranking envoy to Lebanon/Hezbollah for an energy agreement Israel was pushed to accept, President Biden should appoint a high ranking envoy to the Abraham Accords to reassure our Gulf allies that we are there for them politically and militarily — and reassure Israel of the same. Before elections, during elections, and after elections in Israel and in the United States.