Today’s addresses by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) showcased the disturbing convergence between their bellicose worldviews, which should alarm Americans and Israelis alike.
The president’s speech marked an unprecedented moral disaster for American leadership on the world stage. Boasting of US military power, President Trump married “America First” disdain for the rest of the world with reckless sabre-rattling and chilling threats. Stunningly, he threatened to “totally destroy” a nation of 25 million people. He largely rejected the power of multilateral partnerships and negotiations to solve difficult problems and make the world safer – forsaking one of the most important tools of American leadership. Indeed, in a room full of diplomats, he did not use the word “diplomacy” even once.
Prime Minister Netanyahu fully endorsed Trump’s stance, stating that he “[N]ever heard a bolder or more courageous speech.” With their harsh attacks on the Iran nuclear agreement, both the president and the prime minister once again ignored the overwhelming consensus of their own leading advisers and security agencies – who have made clear that the the agreement has increased US and Israeli security and should be kept in place. Instead of honestly reckoning with the agreement’s goals, provisions and accomplishments, they spread falsehoods about it. Instead of aiming to build a strong coalition to confront Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, they alienated and insulted the world powers who worked hard to reach an agreement that has fully blocked all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon.
While President Trump has claimed that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a priority for his administration, he made no mention of it in his speech. The president’s failure to highlight the issue – along with his ongoing refusal to support the two-state solution – shows a disturbing lack of concern for Israel’s long-term future as a secure democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
By ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the president gave Prime Minister Netanyahu license to do the same. In his own speech, the prime minister barely mentioned the ongoing and deteriorating conflict that threatens the future, security and core values of his country. He spoke passionately about improving Israel’s ties with its Arab neighbors – but ignored the fact that in the long term, true regional security and peace is impossible without a two-state agreement and an end to the occupation.
Responsible and effective leaders understand that it takes far more than threats and force to solve difficult international problems and to make the world safer. It takes international aid and diplomacy; cooperation and compassion. Those who care about both the US and Israel must do everything in our power to demand and promote that kind of leadership. We must stand up to those whose ideology and policies will only bring us less security and more disastrous conflicts.