Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Government of Israel like all sovereign states historically has conducted a foreign policy that was separate and independent from any allies; while at the same time coordinated with them. Israel has had consistent friends and supporters in the world as well as persistent enemies. Since the 1967 Six Day War, Israel and the United States have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with respect to Middle East regional security issues. There have been fluctuations in the intensity of this relationship, but generally there has been no distance between them with respect to their closeness on national security matters and intelligence sharing.
Over the years this dual, yet separately tracked, relationship has benefitted Israel as well as the U.S. It has enabled Israeli Governments to develop relationships with and conduct global affairs with foreign governments without feeling a need to have any assurance from the U.S. This has been especially true under President Trump’s presidency. Yesterday’s resignation of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, following up on several other recent developments, moreover, suggests that the Netanyahu Government ought to be more cautious in assessing its future relationship with the U.S.
Ambassador Haley has been a stalwart friend of Israel and its conduct of foreign policy. This is true with respect to the peace process, Israel’s concerns about Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, as well as Israel’s fluctuating readings on Russian behavior in the region. Haley has insisted that the Palestinian Authority be more willing to recognize Israeli concerns and fears while addressing the Arabs’ inability or unwillingness to control and constrain terrorist. Her departure will leave many unknowns for Israel to consider as it moves ahead in its relationship with the Trump Administration.
With respect to the peace process alone there have been considerable smoke and mirrors from the Greenblatt-Kushner team, but no substance. Even in their recent meetings with Congress over the past few weeks, it was reported that almost all their discussions addressed process and there has been virtually no disclosure of substance. From Israel’s perspective, Haley would have been a clear force to advocate for assured guarantees for Israel, perhaps even more so than National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Functionally, Israel must recognize that it has lost their chief potential whistle blower with the Trump Adminsitration, should the President be moved by some ambitious force or outside events to suddenly make strict demands on Israel. (It has also been suggested, for example, that Trump is still waiting to collect on his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.)
Trump might be motivated to question his relationship with Israel if there are shifts in U.S. priorities with leading Arab leaders, especially Saudi Arabia, in U.A.E., Egypt, and Iraq. Similarly, the curious relationship between Trump and Putin could erupt at any time in a multiple of directions, leaving Israel alone and standing in a dangerous vacuum.
Israel will need to pay very close attention to how far—if at all—the Trump Administration goes in demanding a Saudi accounting for the apparent murder of the American based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. There may well be much for Israel to consider as it watches how the President moves ahead in demanding a Saudi accounting of Khashoggi’s disappearance in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Israel’s has placed unprecedented trust in the Trump Administration. Relying this much on Trump may well come back to haunt Israel. Nothing about the President conduct in international relations can give confidence to any nation dealing with the U.S. Without Ambassador Haley, Israel could be left without a real promotor.