National Security Advisor John Bolton began a Middle East trip in Israel on Sunday that affirmed the amazing improvement to the United States policy on Israel enacted by President Trump and his administration.
What a difference two years makes. In December 2016 the anti-Israel team of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry abandoned the Jewish State by directing UN Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain rather than veto an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security Council.
Twenty-five months later, National Security Advisor John Bolton began a Middle East trip in Israel. His purpose is to assure the Jewish State and the Gulf allies of the U.S.The United States would not be bugging out of Syria. The withdrawal from Syria will not be like Barack Obama’s 2011 abandonment of Iraq which lead to ISIS forces taking much of the country. Bolton told reporters on his plane to Ben Gurion airport the date of the American withdrawal will be determined by the destruction of ISIS and other facts on the ground.
Bolton also told reporters, President Trump wasn’t going to abandon the Kurds to Turkey, and will “make sure that the defense of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured.” And he will “take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.”
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Even after achieving the conditions for leaving, Bolton said the U.S. would maintain a presence in Southeastern Syria. The most likely reason that presence is to prevent Iran from gaining a land bridge for Tehran to run fighters and weapons through that part of Syria.
Before meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, Bolton sent a message to the world with a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Kotel (Western Wall) and the tunnels beneath the Kotel. What made the visit significant, is that joining Bolton’s tour senior Israel officials (National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer). Usually, Old City visits are made without Israeli officials as not to upset the Palestinians and other opponents of the Jewish State.
After their first meeting, the Prime Minister and Trump’s National Security Adviser had the traditional in-between meetings press conference.
Netanyahu started with the usual pleasantries, followed by a review of President Trump’s pro-Israel policies. Netanyahu thanked Bolton for President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, allowing Israel to defend itself from the Iranian presence in Syria and (unlike the previous President) defending Israel at the United Nations. He finished his words by making some news with an official request that America recognize the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights:
“If weather permits we’ll go up to the Golan Heights, again depending on the weather. The Golan Heights is tremendously important for our security. And I think that when you’re there you’ll be able to understand perfectly why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights and why it’s important for that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, I’ve discussed this with the President and I hope I have a chance to show it directly to you tomorrow on our visit. And if we can’t fly there, I’ll say it again to you.”
Bolton responded to the Premier with a tried and true topic, one presented by many previous administrations. John Bolton’s version, however, had a twist. Instead of the usual empty words about friendship and unbreakable bonds, Ambassador Bolton gave reasons why friendship with Israel was necessary for the security of the U.S., and he ended with a warning to those who would doubt the alliance between the two nations.
“Jerusalem is such a fascinating city, such a historic city and is now known among its other attributes as the home of the American Embassy to Israel. As you said what a remarkable achievement that you and President Trump worked out to actually bring the embassy to the capital of Israel it was one of President Trump’s campaign promises and he was determined to make it a reality and work so closely with you to achieve it.”
“I think in fact Prime Minister under your leadership with President Trump we now have the best US-Israel relationship in our history. And on our side, we’re certainly determined to continue that because the leadership that’s necessary and what is increasingly I think, a very critical time for security here in the Middle East and for us around the world requires that strong bond and strong leadership that you and the President provide.”
“We’ve got the continuing threat of Iran’s quest for deliverable nuclear weapons. And despite getting out of the Iran nuclear deal despite the sanctions, we have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons. The United States and Israel are strategically committed to making sure that doesn’t happen.”
Bolton continued with a discussion of Syria raising many of the same points he told reporters on the plane.
He closed with backing Israel’s right to self-defense, another statement we heard from the previous administration, the difference, however, was that Bolton’s words weren’t followed by a “but—”Two plus years ago, the right to self-defense would be followed with a warning to the Jewish State not to defend herself too well, or with some sort of moral equivalency between Israel’s self-defense a terrorist act. Instead, Bolton’s statement was unequivocal and followed with a warning to those who would doubt America’s support of Israel’s right.
“For the United States, a sovereign nation’s ability to defend itself is the ultimate mark of sovereignty. And President Trump has said repeatedly that he backs Israel’s right to self-defense. He says it proudly and unequivocally. I would just say to any nation whether in this region or not in this region that has any doubt about America’s support for Israel’s self-defense they better think about it again.”
So much can happen in two years. Whether one agrees or disagrees with President Trump’s policies, one cannot legitimately dispute the fact that this President has executed a dramatic reversal of the anti-Israel policies of the previous administration. This reversal can be substantiated with the actions Netanyahu pointed out, Jerusalem, the Iran deal, and the U.N. but the most significant substantiation was that lack of a qualifying “but” to Israel’s right to self-defense.
The United States now recognizes Israel as an ally with a need to defend herself rather than a vassal state who can only protect herself when and at a level approved by the whims of a President who believes the Jewish State is always wrong.