The Corner

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Why Would the Trump-Netanyahu Relationship Surprise Anyone?

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump’s address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

The AP writes that many left-of-center American Jews are deeply disturbed by Bibi Netanyahu’s close relationship with Donald Trump.

(That close relationship certainly complicates the “Trump’s a Nazi” accusation, doesn’t it? Almost as much as the existence of Jared Kushner. A better and more accurate criticism is that a bunch of vocal and hideous anti-Semites seem convinced that Trump is on their side, despite the contrary evidence, making you wonder what those anti-Semites are seeing and hearing in Trump to stir their passions. Then again, some of these same voices are cheering for Rep. Ilhan Omar these days.)

Are American Jews really all that surprised that Netanyahu sees an enormous opportunity in Trump’s presidency and has a better relationship with the current president than with the Democratic alternatives? What, did they think the Israeli Prime Minister was going to cheer the Iran deal? Is anyone surprised that Netanyahu isn’t feeling as close to the American Democratic Party as he used to, with the likes of Omar and Rashida Tlaib on the scene?

Don’t get mad at Netanyahu for responding to the incentives that were placed in front of him. The Obama administration wanted him to go along with an Iranian deal that Netanyahu saw as enormously dangerous to his country. John Kerry and Susan Rice openly denounced him when he wouldn’t play ball. There was no way the Obama administration was going to give up on the Iran deal, and there was no way Netanyahu and the Israeli defense establishment was ever going to accept the Iran deal.

When Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, the vast majority of Congressional Democrats denounced the decision, even Democrats who think of themselves as “pro-Israel.” These lawmakers believe they understand the best way to handle Iran and know the best way to protect Israel better than Netanyahu does. If a Democratic president is elected in 2020, it is likely that the United States would rejoin the deal or, if it has fallen apart by then, restart talks to enact a new, similar one. Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution calling for the U.S. to rejoin the deal and declaring the deal “of central importance to  American security.” The DNC resolution criticizes U.S. trade sanctions against Iran and laments the “humanitarian consequences of Iran’s aging aircraft fleet.”

The vast majority of the Democratic party believes that some sort of incentives can defuse the threat presented by the Iranian nuclear program, and that Netanyahu is overreacting, as were the 78 percent of Israelis who saw the Iran deal as a treat to American security. There’s no way to square that circle – and as long as the Iran deal is on the table, there will be a large gulf between how American Democrats and most Israelis see the regime in Tehran.

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