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Finley: Trump must strengthen ties to Israel

Nolan Finley
DetroitNews-Unknown

Donald Trump says it will be a new day for the United Nations when he’s sworn in on Jan. 20. And Sen. Ted Cruz is threatening to withhold U.S. funding for the international body unless it recants its vote to declare West Bank settlements illegal, a measure the United States for the first time refused to veto.

Time for a reality check: Nothing Trump or Congress can do now will undo President Barack Obama’s betrayal of Israel or of the American Jewish voters who so blindly supported him through two elections.

The deed is done, and won’t be undone. Israel’s haters in the U.N. —and they include most of the member nations —have been waiting for decades for America to stand aside and let them have at the Jewish state.

Obama waited, too — until the lame duck days of his presidency, when there were no more votes or dollars to collect — to reveal his true feelings about Israel. As if they had ever been a secret.

Obama from the beginning harbored the resentment of Israel so rampant in the faculty lounges from which he hailed. Like much of the left, he sees the Palestinians as victims and Israel as the oppressor.

He wobbled on the United States’ unbreakable relationship with Israel, continually bending it to fit his view that the responsibility for making peace rests with the Jews. Early on he conditioned peace talks on a stoppage of settlement building, and expressed his support for the pre-1967 boundaries.

What Obama considers his crowning foreign policy achievement, the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, placed that rogue nation on a direct path to a nuclear weapon, which its leaders threaten they’ll use against Israel.

Resentment grew to open hostility toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Obama snubbed and worked to defeat in Israel’s last election —a favor Netanyahu returned.

So going out the door, Obama got what he wanted: the marginalization of both Netanyahu and Israel.

It was a jerk move aimed at limiting the foreign policy options of the incoming president. And it will do just that.

It also forces the new president to take assertive steps. The Israelis view it as an affront that the United States, in deference to Arab sensitivities, keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv rather than in the capitol, Jerusalem. Trump says he favors moving the embassy. He should. Right away.

Keeping the U.S. embassy outside the Israeli capitol is an insult to a loyal ally, and plays into the contention of its enemies that Israel is an illegitimate state. Trump could erase any perception that failure to veto the U.N. vote is evidence of a break in U.S./Israel relations by immediately announcing the embassy will go to Jerusalem.

He should also make Israel his first foreign visit as president. Obama didn’t visit Israel until the fifth year of his presidency, as he carefully distanced himself from the Jewish state. By contrast, he went to Egypt the summer of his first year in office to deliver a major speech aimed at healing relations with the Muslim world.

Eight years later, Islamic extremists continue to torment America, while Israel, despite Obama’s slights, remains a strong friend. Trump should demonstrate straight off that he’ll mend the tears in that friendship.

Nolan Finley’s book “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

nfinley@detroitnews.com