It has become increasingly clear that President Donald Trump has chosen to pursue a policy of daylight with our closest ally in the Middle East; the only question now is how much daylight he prefers between our two countries.
There have been warning signs that Trump would disappoint his right-wing pro-Israel supporters since before he took office, but for whatever confusion clouds anything approaching a “Trump Doctrine” when it comes to world affairs, his actions over the past week have been revealing.
Leading up to Trump’s scheduled visit to Israel, officials there reportedly got into a yelling match with a senior member of the U.S. delegation for the trip who had told them that the Western Wall “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank.” And the Trump team rejected a request that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany the president on his visit to the Western Wall.
As is typical in the Trump administration, officials followed up with inconsistent statements on the status of the Western Wall. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster repeatedly refused to contradict the claim that the Western Wall is in the West Bank, while Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations – who Trump once attacked as an embarrassment – broke with the White House line to say that the “Western Wall is part of Israel.”
Meanwhile, in one of the most shocking pieces of news in an administration that has no shortage of jaw-dropping developments, it was reported that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence information that the president, apparently in his continuing efforts to ingratiate himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, shared with Russian officials in the White House the previous week.
Such a casual disregard for the fact that leaking this highly sensitive intelligence from a close ally to – of all countries – Russia, would endanger the life of an Israeli spy in ISIS seemed not to concern our commander in chief, who was too busy trying to impress Putin’s diplomats.
This all comes on top of Trump’s repeated refusal to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as he promised and that despite Trump’s frequent pledges to shred the deal with Iran, he still hasn’t even come close. Just this week, the U.S. announced that it will extend sanctions relief under that agreement.
Trump’s behavior demonstrates yet again a fundamental problem with the leader of the free world feeling free to say what he pleases without consulting with experts who no doubt would advise him to keep his mouth shut and his fingers off Twitter before they have had a chance to educate him on classified and sensitive matters. While the president legally can choose to declassify material, endangering the intelligence assets of one of our closest allies is treacherous. If the information used to impress Trump’s Russian friends were from an American spy – and remember Trump wasn’t aware of or seemingly interested in the source when he leaked it – it would have been traitorous.
In addition to potentially killing an Israeli spy, by sharing information with Russia, Trump has deeply betrayed a close ally and made Israel and other allies nervous about giving the U.S. any further intelligence. By limiting the trust of our allies to share vital intelligence with us, he has also made us all, especially our fighting forces, much less safe.
The intelligence information was so sensitive that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t share it with the other members of global security Five Eyes alliance — the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Yet Trump saw fit to share it with Russia while, let’s not forget, a Tass photographer from the Russian state-owned Tass news agency was there, while no U.S. outlet was ever given any access.
As the Trump administration has chosen to pursue a policy of increasing daylight with the world’s only Jewish state, Trump must clarify his Middle East policy. Trump’s hypocrisy on Israel is astounding, but more important, while the president continues to cultivate mistrust among allies, it has become increasingly clear just how unfit and erratic Trump is and that under his leadership the world has become more and more dangerous for us all.
We’re waiting for those who supported him — particularly those on the pro-Israel right who believed Trump when he declared, “I’m the best thing that could ever happen to Israel”; who praised him when he promised to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem”; who cheered him when he vowed to rip up the Iran nuclear deal — to acknowledge they elected a man who has put our nation, Israel and the world at risk. Trump doesn’t need to hear it from those of us who never supported him; he needs to hear it from those who did.
That Trump’s enablers in the pro-Israel community remain largely silent enables Trump to continue putting our allies, including Israel, in increasing danger. Let’s hope they speak up before it’s too late.