Israeli analysts: Trump ‘reasserted US policy of deterrence’ in State of the Union

Diverging from conventional approaches in State of the Union addresses, President Trump raised foreign policy issues, including those that strike a chord in Israel.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

In his first State of the Union address, US President Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday night to limit foreign aid to countries that align with his administration’s positions and support his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

While referring to the United Nations vote in December, in which the world body voted overwhelmingly (128-9) to reject the president’s unilateral move, Trump upped the rhetoric with a call for legislation that would withhold monetary support for countries that voted against the United States.

Trump also referenced the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and his demand that Congress either strengthen the landmark pact between Iran and world powers, or the US would leave it.

“I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal,” he said. Trump did not, however, repeat his threat to abrogate the deal. Trump signed a waiver earlier this month, keeping the deal alive, but said it would be the last time he did so unless both Congress and European countries heed his call to fortify the accord.

Dr. Martin Sherman, Director of the Israel Institute of Strategic Studies told World Israel News (WIN), “Trump’s speech has injected a huge dose of truth, starting with Jerusalem. Withholding aid places pressure on UNWRA to change, and exposes the lie of perpetual Palestinian refugees. President Obama’s speeches gave his outdated anti-colonialist viewpoint. Trump dispensed with that and instead expressed an unapologetic, Judeo Christian perspective. We should welcome the change and seize opportunities being provided. Regarding Iran, I think Trump is still under pressure from State Department bureaucrats countering his own natural instincts. His patience will eventually run and then he will toss the Iranian nuclear deal.”

Veteran Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger told WIN, “More than anything else this speech was a re-assertion of the US policy of deterrence and unilateral action rather than the submission of US national interests to a so-called international consensus needing European approval. That meant isolation and internationalization rather than the assertion of the US as the leading world power that can be relied upon by allies. He warned of a halt in foreign aid to anti-US nations but the underlying message to the Middle East is that this is a president who stands up to adversaries and enemies and clearly states the dangers from radical Ayatollahs. His announcement that Guantanamo prison will stay open sends a message that terrorists will not be tolerated. All moderate countries in the region wanted to hear that and to know that there is a determined policy of counter-terrorism in the White House.”

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Lenny Ben David a former head of AIPAC–Israel told WIN, “I was a bit surprised that Trump was not tougher with calls to leave the Iran nuclear deal and there was no call for unity on issues relating to foreign policy. It was a carefully scripted speech read from the teleprompter. It included elements that will be criticized by the Palestinians and the Iranians. They already know they have a problem with this US president. The State of the Union reiterates that there is a new sheriff in town.”